United Feature Syndicate
Along with all of the wonders of the upcoming winter season comes the inevitable flu. Despite our best attempts to stay busy baking and planning celebrations, pesky cold and flu viruses often creep into our lives and put a damper on our plans. It usually starts with the sniffles, which shouldn’t be enough to waylay any party plans, but headaches, coughs and fevers can knock us down for the count. With characteristic can-do spirit, an old-fashioned farmgirl will likely face the flu with homemade chicken soup, hot tea and plenty of rest. She’ll try fresh air. She may even improvise her own neti pot using a repurposed dish-soap bottle — anything to avoid a trip to the doctor and the requisite dose of prescription pills.
Like the “old wives” whose tales we tell, many a farmgirl is flat-out convinced that the cure to most any common ailment is contained in something she can grow in a garden. And it just so happens that science is starting to stand behind that belief. Here are two of my favorite grown-in-the-ground goodies that improve immune function while adding all-natural spice and sweetness to fall and holiday fare.
In the controversial field of cold and flu prevention, garlic is one traditional remedy that holds water. Not even staunch conventionalists can criticize it. Thousands of research studies have been done on garlic, and these studies have repeatedly confirmed its benefits. Garlic has been shown to act as a powerful force against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, plus it boosts your immunity.
I enjoy eating garlic in almost any meal, from breakfast scrambles to salads, stir-fries and venison stew. I eat it because I love it, and I’m happy to report that I’m rarely under the weather. To maximize the health perks of cooking with garlic, researchers say you should crush a clove at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. This triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts garlic’s goodness. But if you’re not as ga-ga over garlic as I am, or if the lingering fragrance of fresh garlic leaves you breathless, there is a garlic extract that offers its bountiful benefits without the pungent side effects. It’s called Kyolic Garlic (www.kyolic.com). I tend to be skeptical of supplements, but this one is simply garlic that has been grown organically, allowed to age naturally and then captured in a convenient capsule. As a result of the aging process, it is truly odorless and easier on the stomach, so you can take it daily without distress.
Elderberries, found on one of the most common, indigenous fruit-bearing shrubs in North America, have been used for centuries as a natural remedy for colds and the flu. Early settlers considered elderberry to be the “medicine of common people.” Compounds in elderberry actually bind with viruses and stop them from spreading, and they’re also a potent source of vitamin C, as well.
If you’d like to harvest wild elderberries, the easiest time to locate bushes for fall harvest is early summer, when they’re in bloom. They’re about 6 to 12 feet high with big, white, multistemmed flower heads and jagged-edged leaves. They tend to grow along the edges of creeks. As the summer ends, flowers give way to bunches of small, drooping berry clusters that turn dark purple when ripe and ready to harvest.
Take a bag and a pair of stout scissors, and cut whole bunches of berries, stems and all. Both berries and stems can easily be processed in a steam juicer. You can sweeten the rich, tart juice with honey or stevia if you like, and then bottle it up and either freeze or process it in a canner. Sip a few spoonfuls a day to stay well through the winter. You can also go gourmet by simmering your berries into succulent elderberry syrup, which is delicious drizzled over pancakes and oatmeal.
No elderberries in your neck of the woods? No worries. You can buy it bottled. Skip the cold and flu formulations that contain additives, and head straight for pure juice. Nature’s Flavors offers organic elderberry juice concentrate on their Web site, www.naturesflavors.com, where you can order as little as 8 ounces or as much as 5 gallons. Sip it straight, add it to water for a tart and tasty juice, or try it in tea. Any way you pour it, elderberry is not only a yummy treat but just might spare you a trip to the doctor.
Copyright 2009, MaryJane Butters.
Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.