A winter time staple... .... ...
Just about every culinary recipe I've ever seen calls for some types of spices to be used, basil, oregano, onion, garlic to name a few.
The word spice is a culinary not a botanical designation. All spices come from various parts of plants, leaves, vines, woody stems, bark and roots. As an herbalist we make the distinction as all spices are herbs, but not all herbs are spices, or are they?
We choose not to include certain herbs as spices such as marshmallow due to the fact that when it gets wet it becomes the consistency of snot (not super appetizing), or yellow dock root as it is very bitter, but when we take a curious glance at culinary herbalism, we find that many herbs are being used in food.
The very basic understanding of how herbal medicine works is this, herbs are plants, plants are food. Food provides us with the necessary nutrients and chemistry for the body to function. So why not find as many different plants as we can to include in our diet and vary the way we get their nutrients into the body. By using plants to season our foods we are using a broad spectrum of the plants phytocology and increasing the range of our taste pallet.
I love using soup sacks for this purpose. I can combine the herbs known to help boost autumn and winter wellness in the body that might be a little strong or bitter tasting in tea, with the more familiar seasoning spices to help broaden the taste pallet of those who are dining with me. The sack makes it easy for me to dispose of the hard roots, rough leaves and mushrooms after they have imparted all their goodness, but are not necessarily enjoyable in the sensory experience of eating.
Soup sacks are easy and can be made ahead of time for easy kitchen use. I like using the compost friendly large tea bags that can be heat sealed ( I use my iron). I make several at one time and keep them in a glass jar. Or you can use a reusable muslin bag, when your done fish it out, let it cool and turn it inside out over the compost, and wash well.
My favorite soup sack recipe is an over all body tonic that I include all season long in my families winter wellness routine. I've included the recipe below and a little info on the traditional use of each herb.
Body Tonic Soup Sack Recipe
1 TBS Dried Onion diced 1/2 TBS Astragalus
1 TBS Dried Garlic powder 1/2 TBS Echinacea
1 TBS Parsley 1/2 TBS Burdock root
1 TBS Oregano 1/2 TBS Dandelion root
1 very small piece of 1/2 TBS Angelica
1 TBS Thyme
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Measure 2 TBS of mix into each tea bag. Seal.
Store in a well sealed glass container until ready to use.
Add one soup sack to a broth and boil to season. Allow to simmer with soup until ready to serve. Once ready to serve, remove soup sack.
Special note: Reishi mushroom when used in large quantity can turn food very bitter. If you are new to using reishi, be very conservative with the amount until you become familiar with it's taste. A little goes a long way.