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Monday, September 27, 2010

WHAT IS AAK? THE WONDER WEED (CALOTROPIS PROCERA)

AAK, CALOTROPIS PROCERA, SODOM'S APPLE, SWALLOW- WORT


Aak in Urdu, Sodom’s Apple or Swallow-wort in English has the Latin name Calotropis procera. It is highly poisonous and should be treated with great care. If you get the juice in your eyes it causes instant blindness. Suicides have used it and it is an arbortifacient. Despite this it also has amazing healing powers and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is native to Pakistan and parts of India.

Modern medical research is still underway on the properties of this plant, but it has been found to have antifungal properties and can be used to cure skin fungal diseases such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. It has also been found to have anti-carcinogenic properties in laboratory tests. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory agent. It contains the toxic glycosides uscharin, Calotropis and calotoxin. Uscharin is an effective killer of land snails if they become pestilential.

It also has anti-coagulant properties, so could help prevent blood clots although it has so far not been tested on humans.

In Ayurvedic medicine it is used for many purposes: the powdered leaves help wounds heal quickly are good for indigestion, liver disorders, constipation, intestinal worms and skin problems.

The flowers are used as a drink with milk to cure colds, coughs, catarrh and asthma. They are also used to cure piles.

The leaves can be boiled and used as a hot poultice to relieve stomach pains, headaches and sprains. A tincture made from the leaves is said to be good for fevers.

Parts of the plant are also given as an aphrodisiac and a sedative, and as it was found to stimulate the blood flow, it probably can help men with erectile dysfunctions.
The skin from the root is used in decoctions for skin problems.

It grows prolifically here and is considered a weed, although it was a sacred plant in Vedic times as the leaves were used in sun-worshipping ceremonies. The ancient Arabic nomadic tribes also had superstitions regarding this plant and may also have used it in sun-worshipping rituals.

The best advice I can give you though is to stay away from the plant if you don’t know what you are doing; it is highly dangerous and can kill.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

WHAT IS KACHUR? WHITE TURMERIC, ZEDOARY, CURCUMA ZEDORIA: HISTORY AND USES

kachur root
KACHUR, WHITE TURMERIC, ZEDOARY, CURCUMA ZEDOARIA


Kachur, Curcuma zedoaria or white turmeric or zedoary is not very well known in the West. Apparently it was introduced into Europe by the Arabs in the 6th century and gained in popularity, if we are to believe manuscripts that were written prior to the 16th century. If these are indeed about white turmeric then it was a very popular spice which is rarely used in cooking these days. Either early writers mistook this root or rhizome for ginger root or turmeric or even salsify, or tastes have changed a lot over the centuries, as Kachur has a very bitter taste and smells of camphor. It is sometimes used finely grated in pickles in the Indian subcontinent, but is more often used in medicine. It is also used as medicine in China and Japan, but is native to northern India and Pakistan. In India its essential oil is used in perfumes and in alcoholic drinks. In Thailand the fresh young rhizome of white turmeric or Kachur is cooked and eaten as a vegetable. It might also be used in some curry pastes. It’s an ancient spice and related to turmeric. Kurkum in Arabic means saffron and it does make the saliva yellow when chewed, so perhaps there was a little confusion, as it is not related to the crocus from which we get saffron.
kachur plant

In India Zedoary is considered a weed, and it is believed that it grows in Panama and other parts of the South American continent where it is called the “Resurrection Plant.” It has been speculated that this is because it flowers at Easter, but we think it is more likely to have been given this name because of its many medicinal properties. This amazing root is still being subjected to medical trials and the medical researchers are being cagier than usual about its properties. They do say that kachur has anti-inflammatory properties, which has long been known in traditional medicine, and that it does have antiseptic qualities - it has been used for centuries to heal wounds on the Indian subcontinent. It can be made into a paste and applied directly onto the skin and is used for a wide variety of skin complaints. In India and Pakistan it is included in creams to prevent ageing and wrinkles. It is supposed to be extremely effective as an anti ageing agent.

kachur flower
You can make an infusion of this to be drunk as a tisane, by using 1 tablespoon of the finely chopped kachur root to 1 pint of boiling water. Allow it to steep for 30 mins and drink it two or three times a day. It is an antioxidant and is said to help sexual problems in both men and women. It is said to strengthen the uterus muscles and so help in childbirth and to cure male erectile dysfunctions, as well as being an aphrodisiac. Kachur is also used to stop diseases recurring (it’s an anti-periodic), and to treat colds, flatulence, digestive disorders, ulcers, gastro-intestinal problems, and the tisane will prevent indigestion if taken 30 minutes before a meal. It has also been used to clean and purify the blood and detoxifies the body. It helps in cell regeneration and is good for the immune system. It regulates body temperature and is used in cases of fever.

White turmeric has a high starch content and is often given to those who are recuperating after an illness and to the very young (it stops colic).Whether or not it actually is helpful in all these instances is open to debate. But a lot of people here swear by it as an “almost” cure all.

No recipe as we don’t eat it. Try the recipes with ginger or turmeric instead.

Monday, September 20, 2010

WHAT IS HAREER? TERMINALIA CHEBULA, HARITAKI, BLACK MYROBALAN

HAREER, TERMINALIA CHEBULA, HARITAKI, BLACK MYROBALAN


Hareer is another “wonder drug” from Ayurvedic medicine. It’s the fruit of a tree and is used as a cure all. I’m told the English name for it is Black Myrobalan, or Chebulic Myrobalan, but have to confess that I am none the wiser for knowing that so I will continue to call it Hareer. I was first introduced to Hareer when I had had a very bad fever and possibly dysentery, so I was feeling weak and fairly awful. The doctor prescribed it for me as well as other high protein iron-rich foods. I was given hareer murabba, a preserve of this fruit to try and of course I really loved its flavour. I didn’t know what it was but determined to find out. This is the result of that research.

There are three types of hareer, known in Sanskrit as Haritaki, Vibhitaki and Arjuna. The names are given in Sanskrit as this is the language of the Ayurvedic medical texts. Haritaki is Terminalia cheboula, Vibhitaki, Terminalia belerica and Arjuna, Terminalia arjuna. The Arabs introduced Terminalia belerica (bastard myrobalan) into Europe, having discovered its healing properties from the Indians. The medicinal properties of the fruit and only the bark of Terminalia arjuna or arjuna are known in other Asian countries including Thailand and Tibet, but the trees are native to the Indian subcontinent, and perhaps to the Himalayan regions.Hareer is related to Terminalia catappa or the Indian almond too.

The fruit has been used since ancient times as an anti inflammatory, analgesic, digestive, liver stimulant, diuretic, expectorant, antispasmodic and the list goes on. It has undergone clinical trials which seem to support these old treatments, but more trials are underway as most tests have been on rats. One test saw a higher volume of sperm and increased potency in male rats, so it may have benefits for males who have low sperm counts and other problems relating to erections. Another test carried out in vitro concluded that the extract of methanol from the fruit had the potential to halt the growth of cancerous cells in leukaemia.

It’s good to heal wounds by making a paste of 3 hareer fruit and 3 betel nuts and ghee or oil and placing it on the wound. It gets rid of any pus and thoroughly cleans the wound. The same paste can be applied to haemorrhoids.

preserved
In decoctions hareer is good for sore throats and to heal mouth ulcers, bleeding gums and other oral problems. As an anti-inflammatory it is used in urethral ailments such as vaginal discharge and spermatorrhea, and the fruit will lower cholesterol levels.

In Hindu mythology it is said that the Terminalia chebula was created from drops of ambrosia which fell to earth while Indra (king of the gods) was drinking it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

ANGELICA: THE ROOT OF THE HOLY GHOST: MEDICINAL TISANE RECIPE: HOW TO MAKE ANGELICA JAM

ANGELICA


Angelica has a number of names, but the one that grows commonly in Europe is Angelica sylvestris and Angelica archangelic. It is believed that it originated in Syria but spread to cooler climes where it flourished in Finland, Iceland and Greenland. There are over thirty varieties of angelica but the one that is recognized for its medicinal qualities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria is archangelic. There are many stories surrounding its name but it certainly was used in pagan festivals, as there is a festival in parts of Germany when villagers go into towns carrying angelica stems and singing in a long-forgotten language words learned in childhood, but not understood even by the singers any more. After the adoption of Christianity in Europe it was associated with the archangel Michael as it blooms on his day, May 8th in the old calendar.

Because of its association with the archangel it was also believed to be associated with the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she was pregnant. One legend says that an archangel revealed in someone’s dream that angelica was a cure for the plague. Because of these holy associations it was believed that it would rid places of evil spirits and protect against witchcraft and evil enchantments. The Iroquois in North America used it to wash their dwellings to cleanse them of ghosts and other malignant spirits, and the leaves have been burned in some exorcism rites. In some places it was known as “the Root of the Holy Ghost.” If you grow it in the garden it will protect your house from evil. You could make a necklace from the leaves or carry a root in your pocket to ward off evil spells and for general protection against malignancy.

The roots are fragrant and both dried leaves and roots can be used in pot pourris. It will also give a good yellow dye. The roots, seeds and leaves are used in folk and traditional medicines to cure just about everything. It’s said to be good for coughs and colds and to get rid of phlegm and lung congestion- in other words it’s a good expectorant. The stems are trimmed and candied and used in breads and cakes for garnish- angelica is the candied green confectionary so often seen on cakes. Angelica tastes vaguely of juniper berries and is sometimes combined with them in the making of gin. The stems can be used in jam to add flavour to other fruit, and in ‘confitures’. The seeds are used in Vermouth and Chartreuse. The tender young stalks can be used in salads instead of celery stalks. The chopped leaves can also be used in salads, and they neutralize the acidity of rhubarb if cooked with it. Some people in Northern Europe chew the raw stalks and think of them as a delicacy.

A recipe from the plague years given to sufferers twice a day was: - nutmeg, treacle and angelica water beaten together and boiled over a fire. Chinese angelica, or Angelica sinensis is used for stimulating the uterus muscles and it dilates blood vessels so is supposed to be good for a man’s erections and a woman’s vaginal lubrication. Infusions are to be taken two to five times a day and these help unblock blood flow during a woman’s periods and stop stomach cramps and Pre-Menstrual Tension.

The roots should be dried rapidly and then stored in airtight containers, so that they will retain their medicinal properties for years. The root stalk and leaves are carminative, stimulant, diaphoretic and are good for the digestive system. Using the tisane as a face wash will prevent acne, it is said, but use 1 pint of boiling water to 150 grams of fresh bruised root. Make the tisane with 1 pint of boiling water poured over 30 grams of the bruised root. Steep for 20 -30 minutes, strain and take 2 tablespoons 3 or 4 times a day to relieve just about anything. It’s supposed to be good for chronic bronchitis, and fevers. As it has stimulant properties and is a tonic it may also act as an aphrodisiac in that it will increase the libido. You can also make an infusion with the powdered root. On the mainland Europe this recipe was used as a remedy for typhus fever:-2 pints of boiling water poured over150 grams of the bruised root.120 grams of honey, the juice of 2 large lemons and 1 glass of brandy, left to steep for 30 minutes. Infusions made from the leaves are a tonic and generally beneficial, if used over a period of time. The effects will be felt after a few days. You can gargle with the root infusion, or that of the leaves to relieve sore throats and mouths. Chew the leaves for relief from indigestion and flatulence.

John Gerard said that it was good for “the bitings of mad dogs and all other venomous beasts.” Poultices of the pounded leaves can be put over the lungs and chest to ease congestion. The powdered root can cure athlete’s foot and act as an insecticide and pesticide. To help stop cystitis, you will need 1 tablespoon of the dried root powder to 1 cup of boiling water and steep for 15-20 minutes.

It is a cure-all, but pregnant women shouldn’t take it in large quantities, and as always it’s best to consult a doctor before taking natural medicine if you have a pre-existing medical condition as some herbs react badly with pharmaceuticals.





ANGELICA JAM
Ingredients
1 kilo Angelica stems
¾ kilo sugar
water

Method

Cut the stems into 4 inch strips and blanch in boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft.

Drain and soak the stems in cold water for 12 hours.

Make the sugar into a syrup with a little water, then add the angelica. Cook until it’s soft and the liquid coats a metal spoon. Remove from the heat and put into jars as you would any other jam.

This has Taste and is a Treat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

WHAT IS ECHINACEA? PURPLE CONEFLOWER OR BLACK SAMPSON: ECHINACEA USES IN MEDICINE

ECHINACEA, PURPLE CONEFLOWER, BLACK SAMPSON
Echinacea is native to the US and was used by the Native Americans as a cure for snake bites, and it has been proven that it has antiseptic qualities. Echinos is Greek for hedgehog, and Echinacea got its name because the seed cone looks like a prickly hedgehog with its conical shape and spikes. Results from archaeological excavations show that Native Americans have been using it as a cure-all for more than 400 years. It is mainly used today as a way to shorten the time we suffer from the common cold and flu, but these ailments were unknown to the Native Americans until the European settlers arrived. It was used to cure infections and wounds that were slow to heal.

It has been used as a remedy for many ailments, such as scarlet fever, malaria, blood-poisoning, syphilis and diphtheria. It was used extensively in the US in the 17th and 18th centuries as a folk medicine, and in 1887 was accepted by the medical profession. However it fell out of favour in the early 20th century with the discovery of penicillin and other ‘wonder’ drugs i.e. antibiotics. In 1930 the American Medical Association declared it worthless and it fell out of common use. But in Germany there was a growing interest in Echinacea, and many clinical trials were undertaken at that time. In Germany the parts of the Echinacea plant, Echinacea purpurea, that grow above ground have been approved by the medical profession to treat colds and flu and their symptoms such as sore throats, coughs and fever. You make a tisane with the 1 to 2 grams of the dried root, and drink it 5 times a day. However if you have an allergic reaction to daisies, don’t use it, as it is a member of the daisy family and you could suffer adverse reactions to it.
echinacea colours
Over the years herbalist have used it to boost the immune system, and it has been found, again in Germany, that it boosts the growth of white blood cells so does enhance the immune system. There have been warnings issued by the UK Cancer help organization, which says that it can help reduce the effects of chemo and radiotherapy given to cancer patients, but there is no evidence that it can help to reduce the growth of cancerous cells. If you take it in a pharmaceutical preparation (pills etc.) then you should consult a doctor before taking it and it should not be taken for more than 8 weeks at a time as it could damage the liver if combined with other pills which have this side effect. People with auto-immune diseases such as HIV /AIDs should not take it, and neither should women who are pregnant.

Echinacea contains flavonoids, volatile oils, alkamides, glycoproteins and polysaccharides, and these last ingredients of the plant are the ones that boost the immune system, and fight off colds and flu.

Herbalists use it to treat all manner of ailments, including: - infections of the urinary tract, candida, athlete’s foot, sinusitis, fevers and to heal wounds that have lingered. Modern research has shown that as well as boosting the immune system it can reduce pain and inflammation, and has antiviral and hormonal properties.

It would seem that the plant is less harmful to ingest than the tablets and pills.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

SAVORY: SUMMER SAVORY/ WINTER SAVORY HISTORY AND USES:RECIPE HERB MIX FOR BEEF AND PORK

SAVORY:-SUMMER SAVORY and WINTER SAVORY


There are other savory herbs but these two, summer and winter savory are the two best known and most commonly used in cooking. The Romans believed that savory belonged to the Satyrs of the woods and forests and so called it Satureia. Summer savory is Satureia hortensis and the winter variety is Satureia montana. They are native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. They are good to grow near beehives as they say savory honey is delicious. The summer savory tastes a little like marjoram while the winter savory has a strong peppery taste, and has been described as being like a cross between thyme and mint.

winter savory
Culpepper believed that summer savory was best for drying and making conserves and syrups with. He recommended that people should keep it dried all year round “if you love yourself and your ease.” He suggested that dropping the juice in eyes would remove “dimness”. He also suggested heating the juice “with oil of Roses and dropped in the ears removes noise and singing and deafness.” These claims may be far-fetched, but if you get stung by a bee or wasp, rub savory leaves on it to get instant relief.

Summer savory
Summer savory is carminative and warming, and has been used in folk medicine to relieve colic and flatulence. In modern folk medicine it is used generally to benefit the digestive system. A tisane made with ¼ cup of leaves to 1 cup of boiling water is good as a cough remedy and expectorant. Allow the leaves to steep in the water for 5 mins, strain and drink. It may be flavoured with honey and is given to diabetics who have an excessive thirst.

Use summer savory when boiling broad beans and peas. It’s also good in a soup made from dried green peas. You can also use it as a garnish and in salads.

Winter savory (Satureia montana) has been grown in the UK since 1562 and recipes from these times suggest using it in a dressing for trout. The Romans used it in vinegar as a condiment. Culpepper thought it was good for colic. It has antiseptic properties and can be used as a tonic and expectorant as in the tisane above. It is also good as an antiseptic gargle for sore throats. The Romans believed that savory was an aphrodisiac and subsequently so did others because it was named after satyrs, the mythical half men and half goats.

Winter savory is good added to soups made from dried beans and lentils; it is also used in making salami.

The oil obtained from both types of savory contains thymol and carvacrol. Thymol has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties and carvacrol inhibits the growth of bacteria, protecting from diseases such as E.coli which can be caused by contaminated foodstuff. Savory is also rich in minerals and trace elements, containing as it does:-potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium. It is also rich in vitamins, A, C and the B-complex group. It helps lower cholesterol levels and can be used both as a diuretic and a remedy for stomach problems, helping to stop diarrhoea and as a mild laxative.





HERB MIX FOR BEEF

Equal amounts of dried:-savory, basil, marjoram, parsley and chervil.

Fresh:- 6 sprigs winter savory (8 of Summer), 1 tbsp chopped basil leaves, the same of parsley,2 tsps chervil leaves chopped and 1 tsp chopped marjoram leaves.



HERB MIX FOR PORK

Dried:-1/2 tsp dried summer savory, or 1 tsp winter savory, 1 and a1/2 tsps basil, sage and rosemary.

Fresh:- 8 sprigs summer savory (6 of summer), 1 tbsp basil leaves, chopped, the same of sage and two sprigs of rosemary.



Use these mixtures in any meat dish in these quantities. You can make more of the dried mixes and keep them, labeling each jar for pork or beef.

These have Taste and are a Treat.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

DATES/ DRIED DATES: KHAJOOR/ CHHUHAARA in URDU: RECIPE DATE SALAD

DATES, KHAJOOR, DRIED DATES, CHHUHAARA (Phoenix dactylifera)


Date palms originated in countries in the Persian Gulf region it is generally believed. It has been claimed that they ranged from Senegal to the Indus River Basin on the subcontinent in prehistoric times, and there is archaeological evidence that they were cultivated in eastern Arabia around 4000BC.In ancient times they grew in abundance in the area between the River Nile and the Euphrates, and were a symbol of fertility, and depicted on bas relief and coins. Nomads planted them at oases, where they grew well in the sandy soil. The Latin name, Phoenix dactylifera means fingers of the phoenix, the legendary bird which dies in fire only to rise again from its own ashes (as in the Harry Potter books).

Dates grow in clusters of between 600 to 1700 fruit, which hang below the palm fronds. In Pakistan there is a large date, which grows to around 4 inches, and is orange in colour. There are hundreds of date cultivars, and in 1924, in his book “The Date Palm” published in 1973, Paul Pepenoe listed 1,500 types of date. The Arabs introduced them to Spain, and date palms with fruit of an inferior quality to that grown in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent have grown for centuries on the French Riviera, and in Italy, Sicily and Greece.

There is and Arabic legend which says that after God or Allah created Adam he had material left over so he fashioned it into a date palm and put it in the Garden of Eden (Paradise).

The palm fronds have many uses and in Italy and Greece are used to strew the streets for the Palm Sunday processions. They are used in this way in Portugal and Spain too. Palm leaves are also used to make fans, baskets, mats, screens, crates and a variety of other things. The tender young leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable as can the heart of the tree, but when this is removed, the tree dies. In India the seeds from the dates are ground and added to flour to make bread in times of scarcity. Sometimes the seeds are roasted then ground and added to coffee in India too. The seeds, after being soaked in water, are used as animal feed and dried dates are also fed to horses, dogs and camels, which probably like them as much as they like carob. Oil from the seeds is used in making soap and some cosmetics too, while the charcoal obtained from the burnt seeds is used by silversmiths for polishing silver. They are also used as beads and threaded to make necklaces.

drydates(chhuhaara)
Dates are eaten during Ramadan to break the fast at sunset. They are useful as they give an energy boost within half an hour of their consumption and the sugar content and fibre, prevents people from over eating after the fast. In fact they are good at combating obesity as they dull the appetite and provide nutrition with only 23 calories per date, and they are cholesterol and sodium free. The dried dates or chhuhaara may be eaten at the end of the fast or the fresh dates. Here in Pakistan I’ve sampled dates that are a creamy yellow colour, a reddish brown type of date, the plump fresh brown dates and the dried dates. I’ve yet to have one of the large orange ones though.

Dates are packed with vitamins, A1, B1, 2, 3,5and 6 (the B-complex vitamins), and minerals including iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, potassium, sulphur and amino acids. The amino acids help the digestive processes, the iron content helps anemia sufferers who should eat several every day, although not too many as they are a mild laxative. The American Cancer Society recommends eating 20-25 grams of daily fibre from dates, so put some chopped ones on your breakfast cereal. They can help allay the threat of stomach cancer. The nicotine content of dates checks cancerous growths and helps strengthen the muscles of the uterus and so helps women in a smooth delivery of their baby. They also contain fluorine which strengthens tooth enamel and so delays the ravages of tooth decay.


 Dates also have a high tannin content so are good for intestinal problems and in an infusion, decoction, syrup or paste can be used to ease sore throats, colds, and bronchial catarrh. Such remedies are also used to cure cystitis, gonorrhea, edema and liver problems. A paste made from the seeds is said to be good to help bring down a temperature. A gum from the slit tree trunk is used in India to cure diarrhoea, as a diuretic and a remedy for genito-urinary diseases. A decoction of the roots can cure toothache.

If you soak dates in water for some hours, and drink the water after a night’s drinking, it is said that the water will stop inebriation, (perhaps it’s a hangover cure!). If you are worried about your stamina during sexual intercourse, then dates can help. Soak a handful of dates in a glass of goat’s milk and leave them over night, in the morning, grind the dates in the same milk and add powdered cardamom seeds and honey. Apparently this works well for men and women who suffer from vaginal dryness.

In North Africa, Ghana and the Ivory Coast date palms are tapped for their sweet sap which is used to make palm sugar, molasses and alcoholic drinks. However the Phoenix sylvestris (Phoenix of the woods) is normally used for these purposes, as these palms are not valued highly for their fruit.

In cookery dates are used to garnish sweet dishes in salads and stuffed as appetizers. Try stuffing them with mascarpone and the rolling them I chopped pistachios or almonds.

DATE SALAD
Ingredients
1onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
4 lettuce leaves, shredded
1 carrot, grated
3 radishes, finely sliced
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsps mayonnaise
1 tbsp olive oil
4 walnuts, crushed
6 dates, stone removed and cut into quarters
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Method

Put all the ingredients except for the olive oil and mayonnaise into a large bowl and toss.

Mix the oil and mayonnaise in a cup and stir quickly of whisk in a small bowl. Pour this onto the salad and mix well.

Put in the fridge and serve chilled.

This has Taste and is a Treat.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WALNUT: ACHROTE IN URDU HISTORY AND USES

WALNUTS, ACHROTE in URDU, (Juglans regia)


Walnut trees are native to the Balkans, the regions around the Caspian Sea, northern India, Pakistan and the Himalayan region. There are many different types of walnut tree, but the common one is the Persian walnut which now grows in Britain, mainland Europe, Asia and North America. The black walnut is native to North America as is the white walnut.

The Latin name, Juglans regia derives form Jovis glans, or Jupiter (Jove)’s nut and regia meaning royal. It was believed that in “the Golden Age” of mythology, mortals ate acorns while the gods ate walnuts. The English name walnut comes from Teutonic roots, wallnuss or welsche nuss, meaning foreign nut.

It’s thought that the Romans introduced the walnut tree to Europe from Persia somewhere around 4 AD. Pliny writes about this and in the 1580’s John Gerard wrote that the walnut tree was a common sight in English orchards and fields. It is prized for its timber, and as well as being used to make strong furniture, it has been the favourite wood for gunsmiths for centuries; one example is the Lee Enfield rifle used in World War I. All walnut trees produce attractive timber which is hard, dense and tight-grained ranging in colour from the creamy white of the sapwood to the dark chocolate of the heartwood. The one most favoured for its timber is the common Persian walnut.

The walnut shells produce a strong dye, and you should take care of your hands and clothes if you handle walnut shells as the dye is very durable. The dye is used for cloth, although in ancient times the Goths used to punish miscreants by daubing them with the black dye obtained form walnut husks.

There are quite a few legends associated with the walnut tree, too many to relate here, but because it tends to kill any surrounding vegetation it was considered a sinister tree which harboured evil spirits. Paschal II cut down a walnut tree in Rome because he believed the evil soul of the Emperor Nero live in it. In Bologna (Italy) it is said that witches gathered under a walnut on Midsummer’s Eve to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Generally in Europe a large crop of walnuts was thought to be a sign that a bad winter could be expected. If you dream of walnuts, then your partner may be unfaithful, while in the language of Flowers the walnut signifies Intellect and Stratagem. In folklore it was said that carrying a spider in a walnut shell wherever you went would protect you from getting a fever. Finally there is an old Russian proverb which goes like this:-“A dog, a wife and a walnut tree; the more you beat them, the better they be.”

In the Kalash Valley in Pakistan the walnut tree is revered by the Kafir-Kalash people, who believe that the walnut tree protects them from all harm and evil. They offer misri and ground walnuts to the faeries to appease them in their spring festival.

The walnut tree is a wonderful source of healing and health protection. In traditional Chinese medicine its parts are used as a kidney tonic, while in the subcontinent it is used to treat skin disease and as an aphrodisiac, (probably because it is rich in Omega-3). The leaves have astringent properties and are used to treat herpes, eczema, scrofula and syphilitic skin complaints.

Culpeper wrote that walnuts, onions, salt and honey could be missed to make an effective treatment for bites from any poisonous creatures and rabid dogs. However, if you make an infusion of 25 grams of dried bark or dried leaves (you need more if using fresh leaves) in 1 pint of boiling water and let it stand for 6 hours or longer, then strain it, you can apply it externally for skin complaints or drink a wineglass of the infusion three times a day to purify the body. The powdered dried bark of a walnut tree can be used as a laxative and purgative. The juice from the unripe (green) husks can be boiled with honey and used as a gargle to ease sore throats and mouth ulcers. The distilled water obtained after boiling the green husks can be used as a cooling drink for fever sufferers. The oil from the nuts is supposed to be good for colic, and can also be applied externally on skin diseases.

Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 and antioxidants and as most Westerners are lacking in Omega-3, doctors recommend 4 walnuts a day or a serving of walnuts a week to keep us healthy. Modern medical research has found the ellagic acid in the manganese and copper contained in walnuts blocks the metabolic pathways in our bodies which can lead to cancerous cell growth. This helps neutralize potential cancer-causing substances and helps prevent cancer cells from replicating. Walnuts are particularly effective in lessening the risk of prostate cancer, so if a man has a diet which contains tomatoes, walnuts and pomegranate juice, he can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Walnuts also contain melatonin which is a powerful antioxidant and helps you have a good night’s sleep.Omega-3 generally is good for inflammation of the joints, boosts energy levels and stimulates the brain. It also lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Apart from the uses of walnuts already mentioned, they can be used in cooking; you can sprinkle chopped walnuts on green salads, or toss salads in walnut oil (it’s expensive but has a great taste) although is best used on salads, to make a nutty dish you can mix a little with olive oil to fry foods. Unripe or green walnuts can be pickled and sugar produced from the walnut tree sap can be made in the same way as maple syrup. You can make a really tasty walnut dip with cooked red lentils, pureed with walnuts and cinnamon, cloves, and grated nutmeg, along with fresh coriander leaves and a tsp of coriander seeds, with a little olive oil to get a consistency of a dip. You can add your favourite spices and herbs to get the taste you want.

If you dry the leaves they are a good brown colour and are fragrant enough to use in a pot pourris. An artist I know crushes the shells and uses the pieces to decorate the frames surrounding his pictures. In Pakistan, strips of the bark from the walnut tree are sold on the street as an alternative to toothbrushes and toothpaste. When you brush your teeth with a piece they become very white.

Try to make your own dip with cooked red or yellow lentils, walnuts, olive oil and your favourite herbs and spices. Keep experimenting until you get it just right.

If you want a main dish recipe for walnuts, try our Nutty Chicken recipe. This has Taste and is a Treat.

SHISHAM OR INDIAN ROSEWOOD TREE HISTORY AND USES

THE SHISHAM TREE OR INDIAN ROSEWOOD


The Shisham or Indian Rosewood tree is the symbol of the Punjab province of Pakistan. It is not a native to this area, but native to the area around the Himalayas. It was brought into the Punjab to be cultivated for use as timber and for fuel for steam trains. It is a much-prized tree, but is susceptible to a disease called ‘Dieback’ which is caused by fungi which target particular species. At the moment this is a cause for concern in Pakistan.

It is used to make furniture, and is valued for its durability and the attractiveness of the wood grain. You may have seen decorative boxes made from it but in Pakistan it is used for furniture and in the construction industry. Musical instruments are made from it too, as are the tubes for hookahs, walking sticks and artificial limbs. The bark and wood ash are used to make dyes, and it produces good charcoal.

It is second only to teak in the Punjab, as teak is more widely grown and more expensive. However the Shisham tree is also used in traditional medicine on the subcontinent, and it is believed that it can be beneficial to sufferers of many diverse illnesses.

Some women use the sap from the leaves to lighten their skin colour, and to get rid of dark patches on their skin. The juice from the leaves mixed with honey is said to relieve painful eyes, and if you were to drink 10-15 ml. of the juice it would instantly banish heartburn and indigestion. The powdered bark of the Shisham tree is used in decoctions to treat STDs and is also said to be good for leprosy. It has been found that rosewood oil can stimulate new cell growth, and regenerate tissues, so it could prevent too many wrinkles. The oil is also good for acne and is used in some perfumes.

The leaves, roots and bark can be used as a stimulant, and a decoction of the bark can be drunk to purify the blood, and if you put a paste made from the bark on boils and pimples, they will soon go.

Recent medical studies have shown that the Shisham tree has astringent qualities and can help to prevent heart diseases.

Unfortunately, you can’t eat it, like the other trees we’ve been writing about recently, the Neem tree and the banyan, for example. However why not try our Chicken Jal Frezi recipe?
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