It’s summertime and everything is in full bloom. As Rudolf Steiner, founder of biodynamic agriculture, attests, “all the energy is in the leaves and blossoms of the plants in the summer,” so it’s time to take advantage of those fresh herbs in your garden or local farmers’ market while they are at their peak! Culinary herbs serve a more subtle function than medicinal herbs, they not only flavor foods but also help us to digest them. In Margaret Grieve’s A Modern Herbal (Dober Pubns, 1971), Grieve explains, “lavender was used in earlier days as a condiment and for flavoring dishes ‘to comfort the stomach.'” Though lavender is almost exclusively recognized as a scent, it is beginning to make its way back into the culinary scene. These lavender blueberry brownies will fill your home with the heavenly scent of lavender, so be sure to bake them when guests and family are around. If served warm, the smell is irresistible. Zhena’s Gypsy Tea makes a delicious Red Lavender tea that pairs well with the brownies.
Lavender Blueberry BrowniesYield: 12 brownies
1/2 cup fresh lavender blossoms, finely chopped (or 1/6 cup dried lavender)
1/4 cup organic sugar
8 ounces organic Neufchatel or cream cheese, softened
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup organic butter, softened
3/4 cup organic sugar
1 cup organic maple syrup
1 organic or free-range egg
1 cup organic cocoa (Try Rapunzel brand, it’s amazing)
11/2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 350℉ and butter 9 x 12 glass baking pan. Mix finely chopped lavender blossoms and 1/4 cup organic sugar into the softened Neufchatel (or cream) cheese, and gently fold in fresh blueberries. Set mixture aside. With electric mixer at medium speed, cream butter and sugar together. Add maple syrup and egg, and mix well. Mix dry ingredients together; gently stir into the butter mixture. Spread mixture in buttered baking dish. Place lavender cheese mixture on top of the brownie dough by the teaspoonful. With a knife, gently swirl lavender cheese mixture into the brownie dough. Bake at 350℉ for about 30 minutes, until firm but not too browned on the edges. Let cool slightly. Serve warm for best aromatic experience.
Cilantro is another herb that is abundant in the summer. It is known as a carminative, which means that it has strong digestive properties, and aids in relieving gas and indigestion. It also has a cooling effect, which makes it an even more attractive herb to use in the heat of the summer. Frequently found in many Mexican food dishes, it is also used in Indian cooking as an antidote for hot, spicy foods.
Green Goddess GuacamoleYield: 3 1/2 cups
6 ripe avocados (Preferably Hass or Pinkerton variety)
3/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
3 – 4 tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, mashed with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Combine ingredients and stir well. Adjust seasoning to taste. If you like a spicier guacamole, try adding a little ground chipotle pepper instead of the cayenne.
The following recipe focuses on a very familiar, year-round herb, garlic. While it is in season don’t forget to make use of the leaves and flowers for salads and stir-frys. Fresh sage livens summer dishes and its aromatic qualities are reputed to clear the brain and make it easier to think, hence the association with a “sage” person. In Yoga of Herbs (Lotus Press, 1986), by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad, sage is said to have a “special power to clear emotional obstructions from the mind and promote calmness and clarity. It helps reduce excessive desires and passions. It is specific for calming the heart.” Probably just the thing for mid-summer madness!