By Sara Dahmen
Fall is by far and large one of the most anticipated seasons in my household. From September through November, pumpkins dominate most surfaces (to the point of annoyance) and I use all my willpower to convince Mother Nature to stay in the autumn part of the yearly wheel for another day—just one more week of colorful leaves, crispness, and cozy walks.
While Mother Nature continues to give us these lovely Fall days, one of the most delightful ways to celebrate is to eat heartier meals and soups, as well as harvest and use the natural world around us in the form of herbal remedies (most of which will be stored for winter usage). As this is the season of Halloween, I suppose I should expose myself straight away as a practicing greenwitch who spends far too much time reading books about plants.
So, first let’s nourish our bodies with food!
SWEET PEPPER CHILI
This is a hearty meal that makes enough for 2 people to have a bowl every night for at least 3 nights. You can make it heartier still by adding in baked, chopped chicken breasts or small diced pieces of baked beef (brisket or roast would be best).
4 yellow onions – chopped
2 yellow peppers – coarsely chopped
2 red peppers – coarsely chopped
3-4 heads of garlic – minced (*garlic is an herb of Samhain – be sure to plant some cloves in your garden now for a spring crop!)
3 Tbsp ground cumin
3 Tbsp ground chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp cayenne powder
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 cans whole peeled plum tomatoes (or any canned tomatoes you have on hand)
Put onions and ½ cup of water in a large pot. Heat until the onions are transparent – add water as needed so they don’t burn to the bottom of the pot. Once cooked, add in the garlic, red and yellow peppers, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, and red pepper flakes. Cook together on medium heat until the peppers are semi-soft. Add in the whole peeled plum tomatoes – I actually squeeze each one over the pot before adding it. Pour in any remaining juice from the cans. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. (Add in the meat at this point and heat through.) Serve very warm.
You can garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, and corn chips!
CHOKECHERRY TEA & TINCTURE
My children, husband and I spend the spring planting certain bushes in the hope of a Fall harvest, or scoping out what parts of our summer bike rides have useful plants for a later trip back to grab berries or leaves. I’ll pause a bike ride to yank chamomile out of the side of the road for a later transplant (with excellent results) or to harvest jewelweed from a ditch for the garden (with abysmal results) to help with summer bug bites and nettle.
For this tea, we planted four chokecherry bushes on the property. They are a native species, so that gets extra points. I discovered chokecherries on one of my trips to South Dakota and, every time I go back, I stock up because it’s easy to find out there, but now I’ll be harvesting my own! I’ve also learned that chokecherries became a huge staple in Poland, and they are now the major exporter of them (which makes things come full circle, as I am very Polish).
Chokecherry is a bush the Native Americans use for a bit of everything: the bark to stop diarrhea; the berries to treat canker sores; the leaves to ease rheumatism or to heal the common cold. The last reason is why I spent the past two years especially looking for chokecherries. In this time of Covid-19, having an herb that can stop a cold and keep the immune system healthy sounds pretty darn important. If you forage them, or simply go buy dried chokecherry leaves, you can make your own home medicines a few ways:
Berry Tincture (for canker sores or overall health)
You need to boil the fruit off the seeds, as the seeds contain a cyanide compound. They say that if you let the berries dry on the vine, the drying in the sun gets rid of the cyanide and allows for digestion of the full berry (the seeds are full of oil and protein) the way the Native Americans used to eat them, but we probably don’t want to take chances; so, boil the berries (dried or fresh) with water (2:1 ratio – 2 parts water to 1 part berries) until the fruit pulp falls from the seeds. Strain out the seeds and discard, preserving the juice. Combine the juice and any pulp/skins with brandy or vodka with a 1:1 ratio into a mason jar with a lid and let it sit for at least 1 month or longer. Strain again, preserving the liquid, and use ½ - 1 tsp daily (it’s great in other teas!) for overall immunity or for arthritis pain.
A great source for the berries: https://organicwayllc.com/products/chokeberries-fruit
Chokecherry Tea (for respiratory illness and cold relief)
Find and dry leaves while still green by hanging them upside down to dry over the course of several weeks or months, depending on the humidity in the air. Once dried, smash them in a mortar and store in an airtight container. You’d use this as regular loose leaf tea for arthritis or as needed for the common cold.
If you want to simply purchase the tea, I buy it from here when I run out:
About the Author
Sara Dahmen is a coppersmith, award-winning author and novelist, and entrepreneur. Her expertise is of vintage and modern cookware; she manufactures pure metal kitchenware in her Port Washington, Wisconsin garage for her company, House Copper & Cookware. All of her current designs are based on American traditions and wares and are sourced in the USA. When unable to recreate traditional elements, she uses only small family owned and operated makers or Armed Forces veterans to help with the production of her cookware pieces. Her work also includes refurbishing and restoring old and damaged copper using vintage tools. Learn more about Sara at: https://www.saradahmen.com/