Monday, July 30, 2007

Aphrodisiac Foods To Stimulate Your Erogenous Zones

Lately, more and more people are interested in bringing natural and alternative methods of staying healthy into their daily routine. We believe that living in a state of wellness includes physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual fitness. Sure losing weight and getting in shape will boost your ego and sexual prowess, but what about eating your way to better sex?

Over the last few centuries a variety of foods and herbs have been recognized for their abilities to stir the libido as well as their resemblance to body parts. This aroused our interest to investigate the facts and myths surrounding food and erotic stimulation.Named after the Greek Goddess of Love Aphrodite, an aphrodisiac is something that arouses or intensifies your sexual desire. The actual stimulant can take a variety of forms: food, herbs, beverages, drugs, scents or devices. Oysters, the most commonly known food aphrodisiac, are high in zinc, which is needed for vaginal lubrication and testosterone production. Chocolate, dubbed the 'food of the gods' by the Aztecs, contains phytochemicals that help increase blood flow and produce endorphins.

Although scientific evidence to support the relationship between food and sexual vigor is sparse, we found a wealth of folkloric information on the subject. One of our favorite and most quoted sources used to prepare this article comes from InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook, created by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge (Terrace Publishing). We?d like to thank the authors and photographer, Ben Fink for sharing the contents of what we hope will add more spice and delight to your love life.

Common Aphrodisiacs Origin/History and Physical Properties
Banana Considering the size and shape of this fruit ? need we say more? A popular aphrodisiac, bananas are also rich in potassium and B vitamins, which help improve circulation.
Chocolate (cacao bean) Chocolate was so highly praised by the Aztecs that they celebrated the cacao bean harvest with wild orgies. Chocolate contains PEA, a substance known for abilities to create a feeling of euphoria by stimulating endorphin production.
Ginseng Research has shown that ginseng stimulates and increases endocrine activity and relaxes the central nervous system, which could lead to heightened sexual response.
Honey Ancient Egyptian medicines often included honey because it was believed to cure sterility and impotence. It?s also prized for its sweet, succulent and smooth texture.
Oysters Some prize the oyster for its visual resemblance to key body parts; others have a passion for the raw sensuality of consuming them from the shell. Oysters are rich in protein and low in fat so they won?t slow you down in the bedroom. They are also filled with zinc, which is crucial to testosterone production.
Wine Wine has been thought to ?arouse erections? and relax inhibitions but if you drink too much it will inhibit your desires and put you to sleep.
Herbs & Spices Origin/History and Physical Properties
Anise Spicy and sweet, anise seed is the flavor prevalent in most of today?s black licorice. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed anise increased your sexual desire ? most likely due to the fact that is it emotionally uplifting and stimulating.
Basil The Haitians claim this herb came from their Goddess of Love, Erzulie. Women of ancient cultures sprinkled their breasts with pulverized basil to keep a husband?s roving eyes in check.
Chiles & Hot Spices Have you ever considered your body?s reaction to eating hot peppers and spicy foods ? increased blood flow, pumping heart rate, flushed flesh and sweaty pores? Oddly similar to what you may experience during an impromptu roll in the hay.
Coriander Coriander, the seed of the Cilantro plant, is said to stimulate the ?sexual appetite.? There is a story in the Arabian Nights of a merchant who had been childless for 40 years and was cured by a concoction that included coriander.
Garlic Traditionally known as a cure-all, the warmth of garlic is also reported to arouse sexual intentions.
Ginger Sweet, spicy and exotic in flavor, eating ginger also excites the circulatory system.
Licorice Ancient Chinese medicines have included licorice, which is thought to enhance love and lust (Anise, Fennel Seed)
Nutmeg This highly prized spice is considered by Chinese women to be an aphrodisiac, yet too much can produce a hallucinogenic effect.
Rosemary Choose a perfume or candle with the unique, woodsy scent of rosemary to heighten awareness and produce feelings of clarity and confidence in your lover. Warning: You may experience powerful lovemaking. Torn pieces of a fresh baguette dipped into rosemary infused olive oil enliven the palate as well.
Vanilla Lust is believed to be the result of just the scent or flavor of vanilla.
Vegetables Origin/History and Physical Properties
Artichokes Guarded by thorny leaves, the soft meat of this vegetable plays hard to get, as do many lovers, making the eating experience all the more enticing and playful.
Asparagus The phallic shape is this vegetable?s most apparent sensual property, but it?s also packed with hormone-stimulating nutrients: potassium, phosphorus, calcium and vitamin E.
Leeks Similar in texture yet milder in flavor to garlic and onions, leeks can produce feelings of warmth and arouse sexual desire.
Fruits Origin/History and Physical Properties
Figs Soft, plump and delicious, the pinkish-red flesh of a fresh fig has been said to stir desire for what lies above the inner thighs of a woman. Fresh figs can be enjoyed from June to October.
Grapes Envision a scantily clad Roman woman feeding her man a grape and you will know why this plump, juicy fruit is considered to be an aphrodisiac. Try the seedless variety for maximum enjoyment.
Mango An exotic, luscious, and sexy fruit! Bite into the bright orange flesh and let the juice run down your chin. Mangoes are also packed with antioxidants.
Raspberries A healthy food you can hand feed your lover, raspberries are high in vitamin C, which arouses blood flow and promotes good circulation.
Strawberries Nutritionally, they are loaded with vitamin C, which helps with blood flow and circulation. Erotic literature often describes these sweet and tart berries as fruit nipples. Try them dipped in chocolate for a double dose of aphrodisiac.
Miscellaneous Origin/History and Physical Properties
Coffee Coffee is well known for its ability to stimulate the body and the mind if you need to prepare for an ?all-nighter.? But serve in small amounts because excessive intake of caffeine can inhibit libido.
Pine nuts Pine nuts have a rich buttery flavor and are also high in zinc. They have been believed to stimulate the libido as far back as Medieval times.

Zinc – A Cure for the Common Cold?

In the US there are about a billion cases on the common cold each year. The average adult suffers from a cold 2-4 times per year and for children this can be as often as eight times a year. Recently there has been a great deal of both research and enthusiasm over zinc gluconate being able to shorten the duration of the common cold. The theory is that zinc prevents the replication of the cold virus as well as prevents the virus from entering into cells.

Zinc is an essential mineral found in almost all cells. Zinc supports a healthy immune system, promotes the healing of wounds, and helps to maintain our sense of taste and smell. It is needed for DNA synthesis and supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Since zinc is so important for all these other body functions what are some sources other than zinc lozenges. There are a variety of sources of zinc in our everyday diets. Foods such as meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other sources of zinc include beans, nuts, some seafood, whole grains, dairy products and some fortified breakfast cereals. Oysters happen to contain more zinc per serving than any other food.

A deficiency in zinc is not very common. Vegetarians tend to need as much as 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians because of the lower absorption of zinc from plant foods. Signs of a zinc deficiency can be hair loss, diarrhea, eye and skin lesions, and loss of appetite and weight.

How does zinc effect our immune system? A severe zinc deficiency can decrease the effectiveness of our immune system. It is required for the development and activation of T-lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that helps our body fight infection.

Although there is currently a great deal of publicity for zinc and its ability to battle the common cold the studies remain inconclusive. Most studies are being done to see if zinc lozenges and/or supplements can decrease the severity or duration of the common cold. The most important thing to remember is that as helpful as it may be, zinc can be equally as harmful if taken in large quantities. Zinc is an essential nutrient, but it may also be toxic in high dosages. Be sure not to take zinc lozenges or supplements long term and not more than the recommended number on the box.

Introduction to Alternative Medicine

'Faced with the decision on what form of alternative medicine to use, I write for your advice?' she wrote, detailing her husband's rheumatoid arthritis. This is a case in point for many folks who have reached a crossroads at which Western medicines have failed them.

Alternative medicines, and in particular Traditional Chinese Medicine, are concerned with re-balancing the whole person, treating body, mind and spirit; both healing, nourishing and tonifying Qi, commonly translated as "our vital energy," and restoring the patient's control over their own therapies and medicines, all of course while providing the necessary guidance and adjustments by a licensed practitioner.

Our Three Branches of medicine are among the world's oldest organized forms of medicine. Concerned that without proper diet or exercises or supplementation we would in fact age much faster, wither and die, the ancient herbologists and healers developed the Three Branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Qi Gong, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine which, working together, bring wellness to the patient, restore health and longevity.

In Brief...

Loosely termed, Qi Gong is a form of exercise. It aims to revitalize the internal vital points located in a sort of invincible chain throughout the body. These in turn, when activated correctly respond in a beneficial manner to aid and recuperate the body much faster. The breathing exercises incorporated into Qi Gong (pronounced Chi-kung) provides us with the essential breathing techniques that relax and benefit the body, mind and spirit, all the while providing us with a centralized focus into ourselves and the world around us.

Acupuncture, or the science of nerve stimulation by needlepoint, is perhaps the better known of the Three Branches here in the West, perhaps due to our fascination with the exotic. Consisting of the insertion of tiny needles at designated points for specific illnesses, it employs patterns that help rebalance the body and the organs. It is especially useful in cases of pain, injury and stress and is usually accompanied by traditional herbal formulas to speed-up healing and success.

Herbal therapy is the oldest of the Three Branches, dating to pre-historic time. It is perhaps the best documented, yet the least accepted and understood in the Western world.

Over centuries the Chinese developed a system of diagnosis that often baffles the uninitiated. It takes approximately 7 years to become a doctor (MD) in the West versus 12 years to become an OMD (Oriental Medical Doctor).

As for the case study at the beginning of this article, a practitioner will combine all the therapies to balance the patient's constitutional confirmation. The key of proper diagnosing lies in the proper interpretation of each individual's constitutional confirmation and the interpretation of the symptoms as a pattern. It is the goal of the practitioner to restore health by eliminating the symptoms and re-balancing Qi, allowing circulation of the blood and its nutrients to do the rest, aided by supplemental herbal formulas, proper diet and proper exercise.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, we are alive and healthy because our bodies maintain a state of harmony. It is this harmony practitioners seek to restore. When a person is healthy, equilibrium is maintained; but when this is damaged and not restored, illness and disease take hold.

Friday, July 20, 2007

SWEET CICELY: This licorice-tasting herb can be used in many recipes and was once used in furniture polish.

In the garden, sweet cicely is one of the first herbs to appear in spring. The beautiful, fern-shaped leaves are followed in early summer by small heads of tiny white flowers, on a plant that can reach five feet in height. This perennial herb prefers cool, moist, shady soil, and performs well during cold winters. Like parsley, the seeds take a while to germinate, so you may want to get them started with a batch of windowsill seeds in February or March, or you can try sowing them where the plants are to be grown outdoors in the fall.

Perhaps the best way to grow and propagate this herb, however, is by root division. Divide the plants in late fall when the leaves have died back (to avoid excess damage to the root) and plant out the divisions during the fall so they have all winter to establish themselves. Once established, the herb self-seeds freely and can overtake a garden bed if not watched, but this may not be much of a problem if you harvest the flavorful seeds for use in the kitchen.

The whole plant is edible and has strong overtones of licorice. Sweet cicely's seeds can be used both when green and when ripe. Use the green seeds to add sweetness and spice to fruit salads and other treats, like ice cream or pie. The ripe, dry seeds can be added to almost any fruit dish, as they help reduce the acidity of tart fruits. Try replacing more common spices, like nutmeg or cinnamon, with sweet cicely and see what happens!

The leaves are best when used fresh, and add snap to anything from soups to omelettes. They're also an excellent addition to the classic bouquet garni. The root is delicious as well and, when peeled and grated, adds a unique touch to green salads, try pairing it with a little grated celeriac.

This sweet herb has great potential as an herbal sugar substitute (much like stevia, but not as sweet). It can be used to cut the amount of sugar needed in some recipes in half. Use about a tablespoon of the dried or fresh herb, then add sugar to taste (about 50 percent of what the recipe calls for). It also makes a perfect sweetener for herb tea.

Sweet cicely has been popular for ages in Europe. The highly scented leaves are a lovely addition to potpourri; the flowers are preferred by bees for a flavorful, extra-sweet honey; and the oily seeds can be ground and mixed with beeswax to make a fragrant furniture polish (a popular practice in medieval times).

Medicinally, the whole plant (especially the root) has been used by folk herbalists as an overall health tonic for people of all ages. Sweet cicely is reputed to be a good digestive aid. Antiseptic ointments and decoctions have been made from the root for treating small external wounds like bites and scrapes. There is a version of sweet cicely that is native to North America, Osmorhiza longistylis; its culinary uses are similar, yet its medicinal uses are unknown.

If you're a true herb nut who's always on the lookout for another interesting plant to add to your collection, sweet cicely will make a perfect addition to your herb garden. It will thrive in that shady corner where nothing but low-growing, sweet woodruff seems to do well. You'll be welcomed by a ferny flavorful herb that tolerates harsh winters, what more could you ask for?

Carrot Soup with Sweet Cicely

A pale golden bisque, perfect for a light luncheon or as an elegant opening to a feast.

4 teaspoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup shredded cicely root
2 cups shredded carrots
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 medium potato, scrubbed and shredded
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
White pepper to taste
3 cups 2% milk
Orange zest and cicely sprigs for garnish

1. In a large nonstick pot, melt butter and add cicely root, carrots, onion, zest, and potato. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are somewhat limp, about 10 minutes. Add water and salt, bring to a boil, cover, and cook another 15 minutes.

2. Stir in pepper and milk. Puree, in batches if necessary, using a food processor or blender. Adjust seasonings and return to pot to reheat, if necessary. Garnish with orange zest and cicely sprigs.

Makes about 8 cups.

L/O PER CUP: 106 CAL (31% from fat), 4g PROT, 4g FAT, 14g CARB, 326mg SOD, 12mg CHOL, 2g FIBER.

STEVIA: This Paraguayan herb packs 20 times the sweetening power of sugar with no assimilation problems for diabetic

Mother Nature has given those of us with figures that go beyond "Victoria's Secret" a great gift-a natural sweetener with virtually no calories or aftertaste, that's economical to use. Stevia, also called the "sweet herb of Paraguay," is a perennial shrub of the aster family, with incredibly sweet, small leaves. The leaves when dried and ground fine can be used as a natural sugar substitute. A teaspoon of dried stevia leaves is sweeter than a cup of sugar-without the calories.

Stevia Origins

Stevia leaves contain a compound, stevioside, estimated to be 300 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. It is stable in both hot and acidic conditions, which is perfect for use in cooking. South Americans have used this native sweetener in their traditional dish mate since the sixteenth century, and indigenous Paraguay indians have traditionally used the herb to sweeten bitter beverages and as an ingredient in medicinal herbal teas.

During World War II, when sugar was scarce and rationed, stevia was planted in England as a possible substitute. Attempts were made to introduce stevia to the U.S. as well, but tight war-time shipping regulations and a not-so-health-conscious public discouraged the effort. After the war, Japan continued stevia research, and since the 1970s, has declared it a safe addition to over 70 food products, including candy, ice cream, cookies, soft drinks, pickles, and chewing gum. Today stevia is used as a sweetener and food additive in many countries, including Paraguay, Brazil, Korea, Thailand, and China. No negative clinical reports have appeared in any of these countries where stevia is readily available.

Stevia in the U.S.

The Stevia Company of Illinois was formed in 1976 to explore the potential of this natural sweetener as a part of the newly health-conscious American market. The company worked on better propagation techniques, hybridized more easily-grown varieties including an American stevia, and acquired patents for the use of stevia extract derivatives in the U.S. as "flavor enhancers." Throughout the 1980s, stevia's sweet leaves could be found in popular commercial teas as a touch of herbal sweetness.

Then in May of 1991, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put an import ban on stevia to stop its use as an unapproved food additive. As defined by the FDA, food additives are considered unsafe until proven safe by domestic toxicity research.

Although Japan has not discovered any toxicity throughout its extensive research in the everyday use of stevia, the FDA will not accept the results of foreign tests on food, drugs, or herbs. And since herbs are not patentable, funding for herbal product research in the U.S. is scant.

Thanks to the Dietary Supplement act of 1994, and a petition from herbal product manufacturer SunRider International, the FDA approved the sale and distribution of stevia as a safe dietary supplement in September of 1995. This gratefully reversed the FDA's 1991 import alert and made stevia once again available to the general U.S. public, albeit in a revised form.

Stevia as a Sweetener

Today, liquid or powdered stevia is sold in health food stores as a dietary supplement, according to current FDA labeling regulations. You can, of course, use it as you please as a sweetener. A sugar-free, no-calorie natural sweetener is especially helpful for people who are diabetic, prone to yeast infections, or trying to lose a few extra pounds by controlling calories.

Add stevia powder or liquid a pinch or drop at a time to tea, coffee, dairy products, or juices and sweeten to taste. Some people detect a slight licorice aftertaste, depending on potency. Finely grind the dried leaves in a mortar and pestle or in your food processor. Add 1 teaspoon of dried leaves to 1 cup of boiling water to make a sweet liquid. Strain, and keep liquid refrigerated. The dried leaves are not quite as potent as the extracts, but they're plenty strong enough.

Because stevioside is highly stable in fruit acids, fruit vinegars are easily sweetened with this remarkable herb. Simply add cornstarch (dissolved in a bit of water) and a little stevia to mint or raspberry vinegar for a quick ice cream sauce. A little diluted liquid stevia added to herbed vinegar makes a dandy "lite" salad dressing at a fraction of the cost. If you like a touch of sugar in tomato dishes, baked beans or barbeque sauce, a tiny bit of stevia is the ticket. Adapting favorite family recipes and baked goods to stevia may take several trials. Baked goods made without sugar don't brown well and need to be checked with a toothpick for doneness. Sugar adds volume to a recipe as well, so the liquid and dry ingredients will need to be drastically adjusted when just a dash of stevia is used. As yet, an easy stevia/sugar conversion chart is not available, but recipes and cookbooks are.

Where to Find Recipes

Fortunately, there are a few cookbooks beginning to surface incorporating this new sweetener that will take the guess-work out of recipe adjustment.

The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates and Linda Schatz contains recipes that use stevia instead of sugar as part of a no-sugar diet to help control candidiasis (yeast overgrowth). Body Ecology recommends Nicolette Dumke's books, Allergy Cooking with Ease and Easy Bread Making for Special Diets (See Stevia Resources), as excellent sources for stevia recipes including sugar-free cakes and cookies.

Growing Stevia

Growing this 1-1/2-foot high mountain shrub is not an easy task. Stevia thrives in high altitudes, is temperamental to grow and rarely sets viable seeds and few greenhouses carry them. A substitute plant to consider, which is more available and far easier to grow, is Lippia dulcis. Very much like stevia, a single leaf will sweeten a cup of tea. Both plants are very tender (zone 9 or 10) or are suitable for greenhouse growing.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Throughout it's history in Paraguay and South America, stevia (in its whole form-not stevioside) has developed a traditional and clinical reputation for containing various health and skin care benefits. In South America, stevia leaves are sold as an aid for diabetes and hypoglycemia as a blood sugar regulator. It has also has been touted as a bacteria inhibitor that helps fight tooth decay and gum disease (as well as eliminating the need for tooth-decaying sugar).

Water-based extracts of stevia have been used in natural skin care products to soften skin and heal blemishes, as stevia appears to contain anti-bacterial agents.

If you choose to incorporate stevia into your diet, whether it's a drop in your tea or a sugar-free baking solution, more recipes and easy-to-use powders and extracts are becoming available every day. It's certainly is nice to know Mother Nature has a solution for those of us born with a sweet tooth, too.


Dried Leaves: Steep 1 teaspoon of dried leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool, strain and refrigerate the sweet liquid.

Liquid Sweetener: Two drops liquid = 1 teaspoon sugar in sweetness when made from dried leaves or powder. Some prepared liquids may vary. Experiment with a few drops at a time to determine your personal preference.

Finely Ground Powder: 1 tsp. ground stevia = 1 cup sugar in sweetness. To make a liquid solution, dissolve 1 teaspoon stevia powder into 3 tablespoons water. Refrigerate in a dropper bottle.

Herb-Sweet Corn Bread

Replacing the 2 whole eggs with 4 egg whites will result in a lighter-hued bread with only 3 grams of fat per serving.

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon stevia powder
1 cup skim milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 425° and spray a 9 by 9-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and stevia. In another bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and oil.

2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour liquid ingredients into the well and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 9 servings.

L/O PER SERVING: 156 CAL (26% from fat), 5g PROT, 4.5g FAT, 23g CARB, 455.7mg SOD, 61mg CHOL, 1.5g FIBER.

Sugar-Free Ginger Ale

To serve this refreshing sugar-free beverage, mix 2 to 4 tablespoons of ginger syrup into an iced glass of sparkling water.

3-1/2 cups water
4 inches of ginger root, peeled and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon stevia powder
Sparkling water

In a large pot over medium high heat, rapidly boil ginger in water for 10 minutes. Strain out ginger pieces and pour ginger liquid into a jar; stir in vanilla, lemon extract, and stevia. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 3 cups.

V PER TABLESPOON: 12 CAL (0% from fat), trg PROT, 0g FAT, 3g CARB, 10mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0.1g FIBER.

ROSEMARY: A common ingredient in Italian food, rosemary also helps toothaches, nervous disorders, and cleaning the skin.

Shakespeare wrote, "there's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember..." Rosemary has been the symbol of remembrance, love, and death since ancient Greece and Rome, where its use in marriage and funeral rites signified enduring affection. Greek students wore rosemary in their hair to help their memory during examinations. Wreaths worn during festivals contained rosemary, and magic spells often called for it. To prevent nightmares, people put rosemary under their pillows. Hellenistic and Roman gardens almost always contained this evergreen Mediterranean native.

The "mary" in rosemary led to the herb's association with the mother of Jesus, although the name actually comes from the Latin for "dew of the sea."

Legend states that the light blue flowers of the rosemary plant received their color when Mary, fleeing to Egypt, placed her blue cloak over a rosemary bush.

Medieval homemakers grew rosemary in their kitchen gardens, using it to scent water. Rosemary was strewn in prisons to prevent contagion. Since the eleventh century, rosemary has been used for toothaches, nervous disorders, cleaning the skin, or as a tonic, to cure headaches and stomach aches, to prevent baldness, and, externally, to heal sprains and bruises. Nicholas Culpeper wrote in 1653 that rosemary "quickens a weak memory ... is a remedy for windiness in the stomach ... and takes away spots, marks, and scars in the skin."

Today, gardeners grow rosemary mainly for culinary purposes. Rosemary imparts a pungent flavor to foods and goes well with salads, potatoes, peas, and spinach. Add it to roasted root vegetables and soups; it responds well to long cooking. Crushed rosemary enhances citrus fruit, and it gives a piny flavor to pizza crust, focaccia, pasta, biscuits, and dumplings. Grilled vegetables, like tomatoes, may be sprinkled with rosemary. Toss rosemary sprigs onto the coals to impart its flavor to any grilled food; apply barbecue sauce with a branch of rosemary, or skewer the food on the sprigs and grill. (To do this, pierce the food, such as a potato, with a skewer; remove the skewer and replace it with the rosemary sprig.)

Rosemary flavors wine, butter, marinades, oil, and vinegar and can be used for making herb tea, vinegar, and jelly. It can also be used for malting herb tea, jelly, and potpourri. The flowers are edible, too. Rosemary acts as a natural insect repellent in the garden and scents soaps and perfumes.

To dry rosemary in a microwave oven, place a few sprigs between paper towels and heat on high for two to three minutes until dry and crumbly. Or use the more traditional method of hanging small sprigs upside down in a dark place until they're dry and the "needles" separate easily from the stem. Pack in airtight containers. Fresh sprigs also freeze well.

Rosemary looks like a small, twisted pine tree with the addition of blue flowers in spring and summer. Older plants become woody and gnarled. Several varieties of rosemary exist. 'Prostratus,' also called dwarf, or creeping rosemary, makes a good ground or bank cover (it controls erosion) or low hedge-it reaches a height of two feet and will spread four to eight feet. It also works well in rock gardens and trails over walls wonderfully. 'Lockwood de Forest' resembles 'Prostratus,'" but has paler, brighter leaves and bluer flowers. 'Collingwood Ingram,' with a height of two and a half feet, works well as a taller ground cover. As an added bonus, its bright blue violet flowers add color to the garden. 'Alba' and 'Miss Jessup's Upright' both have white flowers. The latter is useful for hedging. For real height, grow 'Sawyer"s Selection'-it can reach eight feet and has large, mauve-blue flowers.

Rosemary can be grown from seeds, although germination is erratic - propagation by cuttings or layering works best. Once rooted, plants should be spaced two to three feet apart. Rosemary prefers well- drained, alkaline soil and hot sun. In limey soil, the plants will be smaller, but more fragrant. Except in the desert, rosemary needs little water once established. Too much feeding or watering results in woodiness. Prune it lightly and protect plants from cold winds. Rosemary grows well in containers and in cold winter areas should be grown in them; so the plant can be brought indoors when the weather turns colder and grown under plant lights.

Rosemary has so many uses, from medicinal to fragrant to culinary, that it's a must in your yard. Whether you're planting a rock garden or herb garden, follow Shakespeare's sage advice and remember to plant some rosemary.

Sweet Rosemary Rolls

Serve these tasty rolls with Herbed Vegetable Noodle Soup for a light and satisfying lunch.

1 package dry active yeast
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons dried
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 to 3 cups unbleached white flour

1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon warm water

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine yeast, honey, and water. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until foamy. Add oil, salt, rosemary, and whole wheat flour and mix well. Stir in white flour 1/2 cup at a time until a stiff dough has formed.

2. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and set in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 400° and dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces. Form pieces into balls and place on prepared sheet. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

4. In a cup or small bowl, combine honey with water and stir until dissolved. Brush rolls lightly with glaze and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes 8 rolls.

V PER ROLL: 269 CAL (7% from fat), 7g PROT, 2g FAT, 55g CARB, 139mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4g FIBER

Herbed Vegetable Noodle Soup

Prepare this wholesome soup while the rosemary roll dough is rising.

10 cups vegetable stock
2 large carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
10 peppercorns
2 sprigs rosemary, snipped into pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic chives
6 ounces noodles (eggless)

1. In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, peppercorns, and rosemary. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add chives and noodles and continue simmering until noodles are done, 3 to 10 minutes depending on the type of noodle.

Makes 6 servings.

V PER SERVING: 123.1 CAL (15% from fat), 28g PROT, 2g FAT, 23.7g CARB, 190mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 2.1g FIBER

MUSTARD: This verstaile herb can be plastered on hot dogs for flavor or on to chests to alleviate congestion.

Pinched in curries, slathered on hotdogs, plastered on chests, or chopped into stir-fries, mustard has been recognized throughout the ages as one of the most diverse (and common) additions to both the dinner table and the medicine cabinet. It has been used in the Indus Valley since ancient times. The Sumerians ate the greens, and Aesclepius, the Greek god of medicine, and Ceres, goddess of agriculture and seeds, are said to have introduced mustard to humankind.

The Romans pounded the seeds and mixed them with wine for the beginnings of the prepared mustard we know today. In fact, the English word "mustard" is derived from two Latin words, mustum ardens, meaning "burning must," and must referring to the name for fermenting grape juice. Mustard grew in popularity during the Middle Ages, and by the 17th century, France had become the center of mustard-preparing activity. Dijon was granted exclusive mustard manufacturing rights in 1634.

Mustard Medicine

For as long as mustard has spiced our food, it has also been an important item in our medicine cabinets. When mixed with warm water, the powdered seeds react to form an essential oil that releases heat. The active ingredients are an enzyme, myrosin, and a glycoside, sinallein. Mustard is known to herbalists as a good laxative and a treatment for bronchitis, pleurisy, hypothermia, and as a gargle to relieve sore throats. In the classic herbal Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss suggests using it in a foot bath to increase circulation in the feet.

Mustard plasters have been used as home treatments for congestion for many years. One recipe calls for one part mustard powder to four parts whole wheat flour mixed with enough warm water to make a paste. The theory is that irritating the skin will draw blood to the surface and relieve inflammation in deeper tissue. Mustard users are cautioned against spreading the paste directly on the skin as it will cause the skin to blister. Rather, spread the paste on paper or lint cloth and lay it against the chest until the skin turns a rosy color. Remove the plaster to let the skin cool and then repeat. Adding egg white to the mixture will reduce the chance of blistering.

Mustard has also been used to treat sprains and rheumatic joints, headaches, and toothaches. A very small amount is said to stimulate the appetite and aid digestion, but this must be used with care as too much can be an irritant.

Spice Up Your Meal

Photo of Mustard Herb But suppose you don't ache. Suppose you'd rather savor the flavor of mustard than use it for medicine. Eat on! But don't limit yourself to the bright paste we smear on hot dogs. Branch out and try something new. Mustard seeds themselves come in a variety of "pungencies"-white mustard (Brassica alba) is considered mildly pungent, whereas black mustard (Brassica nigra or Sinapis nigra) is strongly pungent. White and yellow mustard seeds are used whole in pickling and chutneys. Black mustard seeds are often used in Indian dishes and are heated until they pop resoundingly. The French use brown mustard in their creations, whereas Southerners prefer to grow the brown mustard (Brassica juncea) for its greens, which are also popular in Asian stir-fries.

Growing Your Own

Although various mustard seeds and powders can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores, you can, of course, grow your own. Mustard seeds are sown directly in the soil in spring or late summer. Make certain not to use seeds that have been processed for eating. Members of the cabbage family, Cruciferae, mustard plants are hardy annuals that like sun and well-drained soil. The edible varieties grow four to six feet tall with yellow flowers.

Mustard can be planted as a companion to aid the growth of other plants. Research shows that the presence of mustard reduces cabbage aphids and flea beetles on Brussels sprouts and collards, inhibits the emergence of cyst nematodes, and prevents root rot. Though there is no hard evidence, mustard reportedly stimulates the growth of grapes and fruit trees. Mustard can be seen covering the fields below the grapevines of California's Napa Valley.

Harvest the pods when they have turned brown, but before they split. Mustards are self-sowers and can quickly change from purposeful plants to obnoxious weeds if the pods are allowed to break open and scatter their seeds. Mustard seeds have been known to remain viable for centuries. When the gathered pods shatter easily (usually in two weeks), separate the seeds and store in tightly covered jars.

There are few things more satisfying than spicing up your favorite dishes with mustard grown in your own garden. You can try "preparing" some of your own mustard by combining ground seeds with various liquids (try vinegar, cider, or dry white wine), adding turmeric for color, and blending the mixture in a food processor or blender. You might try adding salt, honey, chopped roasted peppers, and cornstarch or arrowroot powder to extend it. The creation of your own secret recipe for prepared mustard can be just as enjoyable as the end product itself.

Mustard Spiced Greens

These are a spicy Maryland favorite. Vary the heat according to your tastes.

1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon oil
4 cups chopped mustard greens
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Cayenne pepper and salt to taste

1. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, sauté onion and mustard seeds in oil until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.

2. Add greens, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and salt. Sauté, stirring often, until greens are wilted but still bright green.

Makes 4 servings.

V PER SERVING: 42 CAL (22% from fat), 1.5g PROT, 1g FAT, 6.5g CARB, 15mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 2.5g FIBER

Tarragon Mustard Sauce

A nice sauce for dipping or grilling.

1 large onion, minced
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups white wine or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
5 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon

1. In a skillet, sauté onion in oil over medium heat until limp and starting to color, about 10 minutes. Stir in wine, honey, and salt, and bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes to reduce liquid; remove from heat.

2. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor. Add mustard and tarragon and blend until nearly smooth.

Makes about 2 cups.

V PER SERVING: 27.5 CAL (23% from fat), 0.3g PROT, 0.7g FAT, 1.5g CARB, 63mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0.1g FIBER

MILK THISTLE: Cleansing your liver may decrease your chances of developing cirrhosis, chronic fatigue, PMS, and cancer.

What we wouldn't give to live in a toxic-free environment! Unfortunately, we live in a modern society full of pollutants, chemicals, and stresses. Indeed, we even ingest some of these substances such as alcohol and drugs [both legal and illegal] knowingly. Such abuses can overload our liver and lead to conditions such as cirrhosis, chronic fatigue, chronic candidiasis, PMS, cancer, and psoriasis.

Popular detoxification programs, fasting regimens, cleansing diets, and juices all help to clean our bodies. Good liver health is another way to help purify our bodies, as the liver is a complex organ playing a key role in most metabolic processes, especially detoxification.

The liver is responsible for detoxifying many things such as the toxic chemicals from our environment, the food and water we ingest, and the air we breathe. It filters the blood, synthesizes and secretes bile, and enzymatically disassembles unwanted chemicals from our metabolism and our environment. The liver removes excess hormones and inflammatory compounds which would be toxic if they built up in our bodies.

There are a number of plant-based medicines that show beneficial effects on liver function. The most notable of these is milk thistle, with impressive clinical research backing its claims. You may have seen milk thistle growing wild in fields or vacant lots. It is a tall prickly plant, reaching a height of 5 to 10 feet. The leaves and stems contain a milky sap, and the reddish-purple flowers are ringed with spines. The shiny grey-toned or mottled black seeds contain medicinal substances that have been used by healers for 2,000 years.

a prickly past

Legend has it that the white mottling of the leaves of milk thistle was caused by a drop of the Virgin Mary's milk. The plant was also traditionally used to stimulate milk production. Known through the ages as Mary thistle, St. Mary thistle, Marian thistle, Lady's thistle, and Holy thistle, its scientific name is Silybum marianum. Silybum was a name given to some edible thistles in the first century by a Greek physician, and marianum is perhaps a reference to the Virgin Mary legend.

The Roman, Pliny the Elder, wrote in the first century A.D. that the juice of the plant mixed with honey was excellent for 'carrying off bile.' Originating in Kashmir, milk thistle found its way to Europe where it was used to treat diseases of the liver throughout the Middle Ages. It spread to England by the end of the sixteenth century, and British physicians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries expressed that it was 'the best remedy that grows against all melancholy diseases' [liver diseases] and that it was effectual 'to open the obstructions of the liver and spleen, and thereby is good against the jaundice. They further noted, 'The seed and distilled water are held powerful to all the purposes aforesaid, and besides, it is often applied both inwardly to drink, and outwardly with cloths or spunges [sic], to the region of the liver, to cool the distemper thereof.'

Not restricted to medicinal use, milk thistle was cultivated in European gardens as a vegetable until the end of the nineteenth century. All parts of the plant were consumed. The leaves, with spines removed, were eaten in salads as a green, while the de-spined stems were soaked and devoured like asparagus. The roots were soaked to remove the bitterness before eating, the flower receptacle was served like an artichoke, and the seeds were roasted as a coffee substitute. (Chicory, a better-known coffee substitute, is a relative of milk thistle.)

Although milk thistle was introduced to North America by early European colonists, the plant didn't show up in American medicinal literature until the end of the nineteenth century, when it was noted that 'Congestion of the liver, spleen, and kidneys is relieved by its use.' It now grows wild in the Eastern United States, California, and South America, as well as Europe.

Not restricted to medicinal use, milk thistle was cultivated in European gardens as a vegetable until the end of the nineteenth century. All parts of the plant were consumed. The leaves, with spines removed, were eaten in salads as a green, while the de-spined stems were soaked and devoured like asparagus. The roots were soaked to remove the bitterness before eating, the flower receptacle was served like an artichoke, and the seeds were roasted as a coffee substitute. (Chicory, a better-known coffee substitute, is a relative of milk thistle.)

proven liver protection

Homeopaths in the United States and Germany use tincture of milk thistle seed to treat liver disorders, jaundice, gallstones, peritonitis, coughs, bronchitis, varicose veins, and congestion of the uterus.

Milk thistle has been the subject of intense medical research for the last 40 years. This research has supported Pliny's assertion from 2,000 years ago that the herb has beneficial effects on the liver. Today's scientists have gone even further and identified the beneficial chemical component of milk thistle, called silymarin. Silymarin is a compound found in concentrations of four to six percent in ripe milk thistle seeds.

Recent studies have shown that silymarin affects the liver in two ways. First, it has a protective effect. It alters the outer liver membrane cell structure, preventing toxins from penetrating the cells by blocking the toxin's binding sites. Second, it stimulates the production of RNA polymerase A, which results in regeneration of the liver by increasing protein synthesis, leading to the growth of new cells. Milk thistle is also a powerful antioxidant, providing more than ten times the antioxidant activity of vitamin E.

Laboratory researchers have shown that milk thistle is effective in protecting the liver against a range of substances including alcohol, industrial chemicals, the cold-blood frog virus, and the toxins contained in the death cap mushroom.

the beneficial thistle in practice

Clinical studies have reinforced the laboratory research. In a study conducted in German, French, Swiss, and Austrian hospitals over a three-year period, 220 patients who had ingested death cap mushrooms were treated with intravenous infusions of silymarin (the beneficial compound in milk thistle). One of the world's most toxic poisonous mushrooms, the death cap contains two compounds that can cause severe liver damage, often leading to death. This liver damage is very difficult to treat. The mortality rate in the European study was only 12.8 percent, lower than had ever been achieved using other means. In another study of 205 patients in which only 16 were treated with silymarin, there was a much higher death rate of 22.4 percent.

Mushroom poisoning is relatively rare compared to cirrhosis and hepatitis, which are the two main forms of liver disease. Cirrhosis is caused by alcohol consumption, and is a serious medical problem in the United States. Ten million Americans are affected by alcoholism; 200,000 die from it each year. Cirrhosis is the fourth leading cause of death among men aged 25 to 64.

Hepatitis, the second type of liver disease, is inflammation of the liver, and actually refers to a number of liver disorders. Hepatitis can be chronic (long-lasting) or acute (short-term); it can be caused by viruses (indicated by letters, for example Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, etc.); it can be caused by alcohol, medications, or exposure to industrial chemicals such as fumes from carbon tetrachloride, which is used in dry-cleaning. In fact, even an over-the-counter drug such as acetaminophen (used in Tylenol) can contribute to liver inflammation. There are over 300,000 cases of hepatitis reported each year in the United States alone. Hepatitis B, which is transmitted in the same manner as AIDS, by sexual and blood-to-blood contact, is responsible for 5,000 deaths a year. Those that survive are susceptible to liver cancer in later years. Fortunately, there is a vaccine for hepatitis A and B.

Studies have shown milk thistle to be effective in treating not just mushroom poisoning, but cirrhosis and hepatitis as well. In one study, patients treated for toxic liver damage, chronic hepatitis, and bile duct inflammation, showed significant improvement after taking 525 mg/day of silymarin for three months. In another study of 66 patients with alcohol-induced liver damage, those given silymarin showed a faster increase in liver enzyme levels than those taking a placebo. Dozens of other studies have confirmed the beneficial effect of milk thistle extract in speeding liver recovery by stabilizing the liver cell membrane (keeping toxins out) and promoting the growth of new tissue.

In Europe, milk thistle is widely recognized as a treatment for cirrhosis and hepatitis. Commission E, the panel in Germany that evaluates herbal treatments for the German government, recommends the use of milk thistle seeds for the treatment of liver disease. In fact, most German emergency rooms keep injectable solutions of milk thistle extract on hand for the treatment of liver poisoning.

Studies have shown milk thistle to be effective in treating not just mushroom poisoning, but cirrhosis and hepatitis as well. In one study, patients treated for toxic liver damage, chronic hepatitis, and bile duct inflammation, showed significant improvement after taking 525 mg/day of silymarin for three months. In another study of 66 patients with alcohol-induced liver damage, those given silymarin showed a faster increase in liver enzyme levels than those taking a placebo. Dozens of other studies have confirmed the beneficial effect of milk thistle extract in speeding liver recovery by stabilizing the liver cell membrane (keeping toxins out) and promoting the growth of new tissue.

In Europe, milk thistle is widely recognized as a treatment for cirrhosis and hepatitis. Commission E, the panel in Germany that evaluates herbal treatments for the German government, recommends the use of milk thistle seeds for the treatment of liver disease. In fact, most German emergency rooms keep injectable solutions of milk thistle extract on hand for the treatment of liver poisoning.

the dutiful detoxifier

Even if you don't have cirrhosis or hepatitis, you may benefit from the use of milk thistle. If you come in contact with toxic chemicals in your work, you may find a monthly cleansing program with milk thistle helpful. At-risk occupations include painters, rs, janitors, factory workers, and gardeners. Or, if you regularly use prescription or over-the-counter medication, the milk thistle seed extract may be used to cleanse and regenerate your liver. The normal dose of milk thistle extract of at least 70 percent silymarin is 100 to 300 mg, three times a day. Milk thistle is a safe herb, as there are no known side effects at recommended levels. However, use during pregnancy or lactation has not been studied.

In an increasingly toxic environment, keeping all of our organs humming along is vital to maintaining good health. The liver, the body's sewage treatment plant, is key in keeping our bodies vibrant and strong. Milk thistle, blessed with a drop of the Virgin Mary's milk and endorsed by physicians both ancient and modern, is nature's means to a wholesome, healthy liver.

HORSERADISH: The pungent bite of horseradish also holds promise as a rheumatoid arthritis remedy.

Years ago my grandmother told me stories about grinding horseradish. "I used to dread that job," she said. "My mother always put up lots of horseradish, and it was an all day job that burned our eyes." She described how her father would dig and wash the big roots, then she, her sisters, and her mother would peel them, cutting them all up into chunks.

"Then we would carry the entire project outside. Daddy had already attached the food grinder to a table. We girls would take turns feeding the horseradish chunks into the grinder, turning the handle to pulverize the roots. Tears would run down our eyes from the plant's oils as they were released into the air. When one person could no longer stand the burning and crying, someone else would take over and grind. It was an awful job, made only slightly better because it only came once a year."

Horseradish is a native of southwestern Europe and a member of the mustard family. Although horseradish is traditionally a meat condiment, it has many more uses. It lends a delightful flavor to salad dressings, sandwiches, cheese dishes, and more. Most people associate only the roots with the hot flavor, but the smaller, more tender leaves are a nice addition to salads, sauces, and are useful as a seasoning herb. The chopped leaves are subtler in flavor and, when used sparingly, add a nice background nip to vegetable dips. The larger leaves make a perfect garnish on which to arrange sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres for an elegant presentation.

Horseradish also is useful medicinally. In folk medicine, the roots were used as a poultice for rheumatism. And a bite of horseradish sauce has always been a traditional way of opening the sinuses in much the same way as hot mustard.

The nature of horseradish

The roots of the plant are the source for the "prepared horseradish" that we buy in the store. "Prepared" simply means it already has been ground to a pulp with vinegar. Prepared horseradish has a good flavor, and often has little "kick." I like the herb's full bite and hotness, so I began planting and making my own freshly-ground horseradish several years ago. It's a tough perennial plant and grows easily in any average garden soil. Deep, fertile, evenly moist soil in full sun will produce roots four or five inches in diameter and 24 to 36 inches long. However, the plant will thrive anywhere. In my own herb garden, I planted it in a spot that is mostly clay and rock; even in that poor location it produces more large roots than I can use.

Horseradish can become invasive if not harvested and used regularly. I allow my plants to spread to about 24 inches wide and use them as a part of the garden landscape. The leaves get eight to 10 inches wide and 15 to 18 inches long, are a vivid green, and make a pleasant background for my other herbs. The roots should be harvested during the plant's dormancy-any time leaves are not present. Because the roots are rough and often curled, they should be washed well, then peeled.

If you want to grow horseradish and are concerned about controlling the spread of the plant's roots, it would be best to plant the horseradish in a part of the lawn or garden where you can easily till or mow around it. A barrier may help, but because the root grows up to three feet deep, it will not always be foolproof.


Minced horseradish plants are being used experimentally to clean up phenols-water and soil pollutants produced by a variety of industries.

Pulverized horseradish plants can help neutralize pollution when added to contaminated water or soil by a process that causes the phenols to bond with other chemicals (or in the soil, by bonding to humus), which are then washed out and easily removed.

In the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, a paper published last year states that the process represents a major improvement over other organic solutions. The process neutralizes up to 100 percent of the phenols from tainted water in 30 minutes, and the horseradish material can be reused.

According to the author, Jerzy Dec, a research associate at Penn State University for Bioremediation and Detoxification, horseradish retained 100 percent of its neutralizing effect after being reused 15 times. Because the plant is inexpensive, easily grown, and plentiful, there is a lot of excitement about the usefulness of horseradish as an enviromental cleanup tool.

Processing your own horseradish

Unlike the experience my grandmother had of slowly grinding the eye-stinging roots outside, a food processor effortlessly grinds everything to a pulp in seconds, making the job easy.

Put in enough chunks of root, about the size of golf balls, to half-fill the processor bowl. Pulse-grind a few times until a coarse pulp is formed. Next, pour in about a cup of cider vinegar and add a few more chunks of root. Turn the processor on full grind and process for 30 seconds to a minute. Pour the pulp into a bowl and repeat with the remaining roots. Drain the excess vinegar and use it for the following batches, until all root pieces are ground.

When you make horseradish, put it up in small plastic freezer containers. Pour back some of the vinegar over the horseradish, and press it all down in the container and put on the lid. Preserved this way, horseradish will keep in the freezer for a year or more.

Horseradish & Tofu Sandwich

These sandwiches are best eaten immediately after assembly. If you're packing a lunch for later, keep the tomato and tofu slices in a separate container.

1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish (or 1 tablespoon bottled horseradish)
Small dash cayenne pepper
8 slices whole grain bread
1 10.5-ounce package lite silken extra-firm tofu, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 cup alfalfa or radish sprouts

In a small bowl mix together yogurt, horseradish, and cayenne; spread on bread slices. On four slices of bread, layer tofu, tomato slices, and sprouts. Top with remaining bread slices.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

L PER SANDWICH: 189 CAL(13 PERCENT FROM FAT), 12g PROT, 3g FAT, 29g CARB, 309mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4g FIBER.

Horseradish Salad Dressing

This thick dressing is delicious on green salads, as a sandwich spread, or as a condiment for other dishes.

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
2 red radishes, trimmed, halved
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly grated horseradish (or 1 tablespoon bottled horseradish)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour for flavors to meld. If dressing is too thick, thin with a bit of apple or pineapple juice. Stir before serving.

Makes about 1 cup.

V PER TABLESPOON: 11 CAL(68 PERCENT FROM FAT), 0.1g PROT, 0.8g FAT, 0.7g CARB, 2mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0.3g FIBER.

GINSENG: The adaptogenic and immune-system boosting elements of ginseng are now clinically studied and verified.

My first experience with American ginseng was twenty years ago. I was hiking with a friend in the Buffalo National River area, high above the river on a path known as the Goat Trail. We stopped hiking for a few minutes and rested on a tiny rock ledge overlooking the river valley. My companion reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a white, wrinkled piece of root. Breaking off some, he handed the larger portion to me.

"Here, break off a piece and chew it slowly."

"What is it?" I asked, as I reached in my pocket for my knife.

"American ginseng," was his reply. "And you should never cut ginseng with a knife. It's considered sacred by some cultures, so I observe that by never cutting the root with a knife. Break off a piece," he continued, "or just bite off a small portion."

American ginseng is used by some people as a stimulant when they are tired, "Sort of like drinking a cup of coffee," he explained. "It will help you maintain your energy level as we continue hiking."

As I sat chewing the pungent, earthy root, I watched an eagle riding on air currents over the river far below. Snow outlined the river in places and steam rose from the rapids. The entire river, hundreds of feet below us, was just a silvery ribbon, wrinkled by the white foam of rapids every quarter mile or so. The taste of American ginseng always evokes for me that first introduction to this remarkable, ancient plant.

American ginseng is a native plant of the United States and Canada, and other varieties of ginseng are found in China and other countries. The Chinese have records of medicinal uses of ginseng dating over a thousand years. They use ginseng as an equalizer, rather than a simple stimulant, because of a belief that illness is caused by the lack of equilibrium between the body's systems.

Native American cultures have relied upon American ginseng for energy, and as an overall tonic and balancing agent. They carried it on long journeys, much like my friend had on our hike, biting off tiny, pea-sized bites as daily energy regulators.

American ginseng was once found in rich woods from Minnesota to Maine, south to Georgia and west into Oklahoma. As the Chinese exhausted their own indigenous ginseng supplies, they turned to the United States and by the 1940s, the root was being wildcrafted and exported in large quantities to the Orient.

Wildcrafting, the practice of finding and digging roots from wild plant colonies, was once a good income-producer in rural areas of American ginseng's natural growing regions. But over the years, root buyers have made native colonies virtually extinct.

American ginseng is now cultivated in many areas, particularly in states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Illinois, Virginia, and West Virginia, where the growing conditions are ideal. It requires a rich, loamy, woodland soil with lots of humus. Conditions that keep the roots cool and evenly moist, are necessary. The plant grows naturally in cool, moist but not wet, valleys and on north-facing slopes of hillsides, in shade. It can be found in the early West Virginia autumn under the shade of walnut trees.

Commercial growers cultivate and grow American ginseng in raised beds, under shade cloth. Plants grown in those conditions must have many applications of fertilizer and automatic watering systems, and grow more quickly and straighter than wildcrafted plants.

Wild grown American ginseng, a separate category from wildcrafted American ginseng, is a root that is grown in the woods under natural conditions, without fertilizer or herbicides, by planting the seed or young transplants in areas where American ginseng has been found growing before.

American ginseng has taken on a magical quality in the minds of many people. One reason for that seems to spring from the price. American ginseng has remained one of the most expensive herbs to buy or sell. (This past season it was sold for an average of $450 per pound.) Another mystical quality stems from claims for its use as an aphrodisiac, for strengthening the heart, and for renewing strength and vitality. However, it is worth noting that American ginseng is not recommended for use by people with high blood pressure, since it can raise blood pressure, according to ginseng authorities.

There are many ways to add American ginseng to your life. Tea made from the leaves is an old folk remedy, but have you tried ginseng muffins? If you treat American ginseng as a seasoning herb, you can easily incorporate it into recipes for cookies and jams. Ginseng honey and ginseng chips dipped in maple syrup are flavorful too. Many health food stores offer ginseng-flavored drinks and chewing gum.

American ginseng tastes earthy, like many root crops, and has a warming, stimulating flavor. Some say it tastes vaguely of turnips and horehound candy, with a bite of hot pepper and a hint of sweetness.

Capsules and teas are popular ways to take ginseng. My own preference, however, is to bite off or break off a pea-sized piece of the dried root and chew it. The flavor is much more agreeable.

To make your own American ginseng tea, break off a piece of root about the size of a pea (or a pinto bean). Mash it slightly with the bowl end of a spoon. Pour a cup of rapidly boiling water over the root in a cup. Cover the cup and let the tea steep for 5 minutes. Add a squirt of fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon or more of honey. Sip slowly and enjoy the distinctive flavor.

Pineapple-Ginseng Wake-Up

Use as a refreshing breakfast fruit juice.

A piece of American ginseng the size of 2 pinto beans
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup apple or mango juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey (or to taste)

Mash slightly the piece of ginseng root. Pour boiling water over the ginseng and cover, letting it steep 5 to 7 minutes. Remove root and save for use again. Combine the ginseng tea with the remaining ingredients, shake or mix well, and refrigerate.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

V PER 1/2 CUP: 62.5 CAL(0 PERCENT FROM FAT), 0.2g PROT, 0g FAT, 15.2g CARB, 2.5mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0.2g FIBER.

FENNEL: This sweet-smelling flower serves double-duty as a remedy for headaches, coughs and as a cooking garnish.

What gardener wouldn't want to grow an herb that tolerates any soil or watering schedule, tastes like licorice candy, comes in light-green or bronze foliage variations, has numerous medicinal uses, and looks like a delicate (five foot high) fern with flowers? This wondrous plant is fennel, and every part of it, from roots to seeds is delicious.

Fennel has been used as an herb for centuries, and is native to the Mediterranean region. The aromatic plant is found in Greek mythology, Renaissance recipes, and Italian folklore. In fact, the word fennel comes from fenum, Latin for hay, which describes its sweet smell. In antiquity, Roman ladies ate fennel to reduce obesity. They were ahead of their time, since fennel is used today to help make fatty foods more digestible. Throughout its history, fennel has been eaten or taken in tea as a general digestive aid, and has been proclaimed to help numerous maladies, including toothaches, flatulence, coughs, headaches, bladder disorders, and more.

In the kitchen, fennel has so many applications that it's a wonder everyone doesn't grow it along with their parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Italian dishes taste even better with this feathery herb, whether you use the seeds in pizza, chopped leaves in a salad, or the grated bulb in alfredo dishes. Florence fennel (F. vulgare var. dulse or var. azoricum) is a related variety, It forms a large, bulbous base which can be quartered and roasted for a unique side dish.

Another fennel variety called bronze fennel (F. vulgare var. rubrum or 'Purpurascens'), is absolutely beautiful in the garden and tastes just as good as the green variety. Plant a background hedge of green and bronze fennel behind some white or yellow flowers and wait for the compliments. (You don't have to tell anyone how ridiculously easy they are to grow.) Fennel is also great for attracting swallowtail butterflies and beneficial garden insects like lacewings, ladybugs, hover flies, and soldier bugs.

Fennel thrives in rich, moist soil with full sun, but can grow very well in any conditions. In Mediterranean climates, fennel grows wild on hillsides with complete abandon, even in the rock-hard, bone-dry clay soils of California. If you grow it in your garden under ideal conditions, fennel can easily reach five feet or more in its second year, so make sure you have the room before planting that innocent 2-1/2 inch potful from the nursery.

The mother plant is quite drought resistant once established, and the root bulb is very hardy. This vigorous plant can become invasive due to its ability to reseed, so if you don't want to bother plucking the babies up next spring, you should cut off the flower heads soon after they're done blooming. It will also cross-pollinate with dill, so you may have to choose between one or the other if you're a seed saver.

Fennel leaves don't dry very well if you want to use them later, but the seeds carry the leaves' distinctive licorice flavor. Fennel seeds keep well, and are good in deserts and candies of all kinds. Cut off the seed heads just as soon as they start to turn brown in late summer- you may have to check them every day or you'll lose a lot of seeds when they let go. Another method for gathering seeds is to tie bags over the drying heads when they're almost ready, but if you have a lot of plants this could be time-consuming.

Although fennel can be confused with licorice-flavored anise, or tall feathery yellow-flowered dill, fennel definitely deserves a place in any serious cook's garden. Plant it in a large pot on your balcony, or use a neglected corner of your yard, or create an extravagant backdrop in your herb garden for this graceful and delicious herb with a delicious history.

Tomato and Fennel Soup

Chop the feathery fennel fronds to use as a pretty garnish for this soup. They can also be added to the soup before pureeing to enhance the fennel flavor.

1 large onion, chopped
2 medium fennel bulbs, cored and chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup soy milk
Salt and pepper

1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook onion, fennel, and carrot in 1 cup of the vegetable broth until very tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Add remaining stock, tomatoes, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. In a food processor, puree soup in batches and return to pot. Stir in soy milk, and add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat gently; do not boil.

Makes 6 servings.

V PER SERVING: 75 CAL (17% from fat), 22g PROT, 1.4g FAT, 12g CARB, 106mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4g FIBER.

Potato Cakes w/Glazed Apples and Fennel

If you're using leftover cold cooked potatoes in this dish, let them come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

4 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup liquid egg substitute or two eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cornmeal
Pay spray or oil for cooking

2 medium fennel bulbs, halved, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon soy margarine or butter
3 tart green apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate
Salt and pepper

1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook onion, fennel, and carrot in 1 cup of the vegetable broth until very tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Add remaining stock, tomatoes, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. In a food processor, puree soup in batches and return to pot. Stir in soy milk, and add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat gently; do not boil.

4. Pan-spray a large skillet. Cook potato patties over medium heat until browned, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Serve hot with warm apple and fennel topping.

Makes 4 servings.

O PER SERVING: 405 CAL (8% from fat), 7.4g PROT, 3.5g FAT, 85g CARB, 664mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 10g FIBER.

EPAZOTE: An herb crucial to Central American cooking is an easy-care herb gardeners dream of.

Epazote, crucial to Central American cooking, is one of those easy-care herbs gardeners dream about. It prefers poor soil and thrives on neglect. You may not even notice it growing there - and might mistake it for a common weed - but when you brush against it, its startling methylic odor changes your mind. In the kitchen, epazote makes the difference between a "good try" and a delicious authenthic dish.

As late as the early 1980's, this herb was found only in groceries serving a large Hispanic population. Also known as Mexican Tea, it originated in South America, spread northward through Central American, and now has naturalized in many parts of the United States - particularly where it spread from former plantings. Yet, until quite recently, seeds for home gardeners were hard to find. Today, many seed companies with a serious herb section carry Chenopodium ambrosoides.

Growing it is easy. An assertive annual, once started it will self-seed almost any place, even areas with very cold winters, where it readily germinates every spring. For top production, newly purchased seeds should either be sown in the fall or put in the freezer for a couple of weeks before planting.

Epazote does best in full sun and poor, well-drained soil. If you plant the seed half an inch deep, and thin the young plants to a foot apart, it will be four feet tall by mid-summer and produce tiny yellow-green flowers. A member of the goosefoot family and a close relative of lamb's quarters, its young leaves and shoots can be cooked as nutritious greens. Leaves of any age can be used as a seasoning.

While epazote's freshly picked flavor leaves a distinct unusual aftertaste - even unsettling after the first time its tried - a finely minced sprig added to salsa or dried bean recipes creates just the right subtle overtones. It dresses up a lot of recipes through South and Central America, and it's indigenous to Mexican cuisine where it seasons many tortilla concoctions, a wide range of sauces, and almost all bean dishes.

Epazote, as a folk remedy to relieve the gas which often accompanies legume meals, has been scientifically proven. Now a pharmaceutical crop, specific oils in Chenopodium ambrosoides are distilled, making if far more powerful than the few leaves we add for taste, and used in the medicinal world to purge the intestinal system. And therein lies another of its common names: American wormseed.

As a cooking herb, a couple plants are more than enough. For winter use, the entire plant can be snipped off before it blooms and hung upside down in a shady, dry location. When the foliage is thoroughly dry, crumble and stores it in an airtight jar in a closed cupboard. The stumps left in the garden will continue to grow for the rest of the summer, and will seed next year's crops before winter arrives.

Pinto Bean & Rice Stew

If you're so inclined, you can zip up this hearty stew with hot sauce or peppers.

4 cups water
1 cup dried pinto beans, washed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh epazote, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked white rice

In a large pot, bring water, beans garlic, and onion to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until beans are soft. Add chili powder, cumin, parsley, epazote, tomatoes, and salt, and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in rice and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

V PER SERVING: 243 CAL (4% from fat), 8g PROT, 1g FAT, 52g CARB, 440mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 7g FIBER

Tortilla Casserole

It's fine to use stale tortillas for this easy stovetop casserole.

10 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch squares
6 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon fresh epazote, chopped, (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup water
3 ounces cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 350° and lightly pan spray a baking sheet. Spread tortilla squares over prepared sheet and toast for 20 minutes, or until no longer pliable.

2. In a large skillet, cook onions and jalapeños in 2 tablespoons water for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add tomatoes, epazote, and remaining water, and cook over medium high heat for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to break down. Cover with tortilla squares, sprinkle with cheese, reduce high to low, and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Makes 6 servings.

L PER SERVING: 194 CAL (29% from fat), 8g PROT, 6g FAT, 29g CARB, 257mg SOD, 15mg CHOL, 4.4g FIBER

Tortilla Soup

To prepare dried peppers, first wipe them clean and then toast them in a dry cast iron skillet over high heat until they soften and plump up slightly. Remove seeds and ribs and proceed as directed in your recipe.

6 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 dried pasilla peppers, toasted and chopped
4 medium tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon fresh epazote, chopped, (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350° and lightly pan spray a baking sheet. Spread tortilla squares over prepared sheet and toast for 20 minutes, or until no longer pliable.

2. In a blender or food processor, puree peppers, half of the tomatoes, garlic, and 1/2 cup of vegetable stock.

3. In a heavy soup pot, cook onions in a 1/4 cup of vegetable stock over medium high for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add pepper mixture, potatoes, remaining stock, and epazote. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in tortilla pieces and serve with cheese, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

L PER SERVING: 132 CAL (9% from fat), 3g PROT, 1g FAT, 25g CARB, 258mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 3.3g FIBER

CHIVES: This garlic-flavored herb was once used to treat blood poisoning but now is now used mostly as a flavoring agent in cooking.

Native to the northern hemisphere, chives once grew wild throughout Eurasia, from Siberia to Corsica, and in North America as far south as the Great Lakes. Thousands of years ago, Chinese herbalists recommended eating raw chives as an antidote for poison and to control excessive bleeding.

The Romans cooked with chives, which are mentioned in the famous cookbook of Apicius. Eventually chives caught on in the rest of Europe, and were popular in 16th century gardens. This perennial member of the onion family was used to flavor soups, eggs, cheese, and salads. Bunches of chives were hung in old world homes to ward off evil spirits.

Chives made their way into American gardens before 1806. Dutch settlers in America planted chives in their cow pastures to create chive-flavored milk.

The two most common types of chives are Allium schoenoprasum and Allium tuberosum, also known as garlic chives. The mild onion-flavored Allium schoenoprasum have slender, two-foot high tube-shaped leaves and purple, clover-like flowers. Allium tuberosum have narrow flat leaves with star-shaped white flowers and a garlicky taste.

Chives' main use is culinary, as a flavoring or garnish. The French consider chives a necessity in fine herbs, a mixture of equal parts parsley, tarragon, chives, and chervil - all fresh, of course. Fine herbs flavor savory sauces and soups, and when added at the last minute of cooking, release their essential oils, but retain their freshness.

Sprinkle chives on salads, vegetables, and potatoes, and use in cheese and egg dishes for a mild onion or garlic flavor. They are especially good in cottage cheese. Chive blossoms can also be eaten - toss them into salads, chilled soups, and marinated vegetables. Chives are best used fresh, but can be dried or frozen as well.

All members of the Allium genus contain sulfur, some iron and vitamins (chives are especially high in vitamin C), and are a mild antibiotic. They also contain the phytochemical allicin, which may help reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and prevent certain types of cancer. Chives sprinkled on food stimulate the appetite, promote digestion, and can also serve as a mild laxative.

Even folks with brown thumbs can grow chives. Although the easiest method is to buy small plants from a nursery, they can also be started from seed, or by dividing the roots from an older clump. Individual bulbs should be planted five inches apart in full sun or light shade in rich, moist soil. A mixture of two parts garden or potting soil, two parts peat, one part sand, and one part compost works quite well.

When cutting chives often for use, enrich the soil monthly. Chives are evergreen in mild regions, but go dormant where winters are severe. Clumps can be grown indoors in winter, to provide fresh leaves for cooking. They need at least six hours of sun a day.

Chives make excellent companion plants for fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers. Prevent apple scab by planting chives around the base of apple trees or watering them with chive tea. (Made by pouring boiling water over dried chives, steeping for fifteen minutes, and diluting with two parts water).

The attractive chive plant makes a lovely edging for a flower border or herb garden. The plants blend well with other herbs such as mint and sage. Chive blossoms can be used as cut flowers and can be dried for arrangements.

Tofu-Chive Potato Topping

Creamy tofu tastes terrific with chives. Pulse briefly for a speckled appearance, or blend longer to produce a beautiful pale green hue. Use it as a great dip for crisp vegetables.

8 ounces soft (not silken) tofu
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped chives
Salt and pepper

In a blender or food processor, combine tofu, oil, and lemon juice, process until smooth. Add chives and pulse to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes about 1 cup.

V PER TABLESPOON: 26 CAL, (72% from fat), 1g PROT, 2g FAT, 1g CARB, 0mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0g FIBER

Caponata with Chives

Here's the latest tasty variation of the ever-popular Sicilian side dish.

1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon Balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped chives

1. Place chopped eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Set aside to drain on a plate or in the sink, for about 1 hour.

2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, sauté onion in oil, stirring frequently, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and celery and sauté for 2 minutes more.

3. With hands, squeeze moisture from chopped eggplant and add to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

4. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, and chives. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes about 2 cups.

V PER 1/4 CUP: 31 CAL (48% from fat), 0.4g PROT, 2g FAT, 4g CARB, 34mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 1g FIBER

Sour Cream Biscuits with Chives

Pretty flecks of chives add interest to these tender, fluffy biscuits.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup nonfat sour cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped chives

1.Preheat oven to 425° and lightly oil a baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add sour cream, oil, and chives. Stir until just combined.

Makes 9 biscuits.

L PER BISCUIT: 138 CAL (22% from fat), 5g PROT, 3g FAT, 22g CARB, 378mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 2g FIBER.

CHAMOMILE: Chamomile's medicianal properties range from skin inflammations to lightening hair to treating digestive problems.

Native to Europe and the Mediterranean, the herb Chamaemelum nobile derives from the Greek words for "ground apple," a reference to the herb's distinctive aroma, and the Latin word for "noble" or "noted," which indicates its healing qualities. Chamaemelum nobile, often called Roman chamomile, is a low-growing perennial. Tea made from its flowers can be medicinal and bitter tasting. German chamomile, Matricaria recutita, is named for its traditional role as a gynecological herb and is the species most commonly used in the US. This tall, erect annual produces a sweeter, more flavorful tea than Roman chamomile. Both chamomiles belong to the Compositae family, along with daisies, dandelions, and marigolds.

A Soothing Tradition

Dioscorides, a Greek physician in the Roman army, prescribed chamomile for upset stomachs, jangled nerves, and kidney and liver diseases. During the spring, ancient Greek physicians pounded chamomile's leaves, flowers, and roots into lozenges which were prescribed for snake bites.

Over thirteen centuries before Dioscorides, the ancient Egyptians used chamomile in various ways. Its blossoms formed part of the floral garlands worn by statues of deities in King Tut's tomb. Powdered chamomile flowers were sprinkled into the abdominal cavity of the mummy of Rameses II to act as an insecticide. In ancient Assyria, Anthemis tinctoria, or "dyer's chamomile," was used for dyeing and was known as "the gift of the field."

The Anglo-Saxons, too, associated chamomile with the gods, "never...fatally fell man since we to him maythen (chamomile) for medicine mixed up." Maythen was one of the Nine Sacred Herbs given to the world by the god Woden, as listed in the Lacnunga, an ancient Anglo-Saxon manuscript.

Seventeenth and eighteenth century herbalists recommended that "to comfort the braine, smel to camomill." And, "all parts of this excellent plant are full of virtue." Seventeenth-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote, "bathing with a decoction of chamomile taketh away weariness, easeth pains, comforteth the sinews when overstrained, and mollifieth all swellings." Nineteenth century Eclectic physicians prescribed it for digestive problems, malaria, typhus, and menstrual cramps.

For Beauty, Mind, and Mouth

Today, chamomile tea is commonly used as an antidote to stress. Research has revealed that its volatile oil compounds act as a mild sedative. Chamomile combats insomnia and prevents nightmares. It also helps relax the lining of the digestive tract and therefore helps overactive stomachs and bowels. Chamomile can be used externally to treat skin inflammations, sunburn, hemorrhoids, insect bites, and eczema. As a mouthwash, it helps alleviate mouth inflammations and toothaches.

As a beauty aid, chamomile has various uses. Rinsing the face weekly with chamomile tea helps keep the skin smooth, especially in bad weather. The herb can be used on babies, and even on dogs and cats. Cotton balls dipped in cool chamomile tea and placed on the eyes can relieve puffy bags under the eyes. To condition and lighten hair, boil chamomile flowers for 20 minutes and use the cooled tea as a hair rinse.

Chamomile proves quite versatile as a beverage. The French often drink a tisane of chamomile after dinner. Although chamomile tea is much more popular in Europe and Latin America than in North America, great amounts of it are imported here. Many ex-coffee drinkers find chamomile tea an excellent morning beverage. And on a hot afternoon, an iced tea made of chamomile is thoroughly refreshing.

A Gardener's Friend

Gardeners, too, have found many uses for chamomile, especially for lawns. Shakespeare's Falstaff noted of the herb that "the more it is trodden on the faster it grows." Thousands trample the famous chamomile lawn at Buckingham Palace, with no ill effect to the herb. Chamomile covers garden seats and walkways, allowing people to enjoy its pleasant, refreshing scent as they stroll through the grounds. Old time gardeners called chamomile the "plant doctor," placing it near sick plants and growing paths of it through their herb gardens. They believed chamomile was especially good for cabbages, and if planted a yard away, for onions as well. To treat herbs suffering from transplant shock, some gardeners sprinkle a light mulch of fresh or dried chamomile flowers at the base of the plant and water with hot water.

Grow Chamaemelum nobile in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. This perennial evergreen with tiny daisy-like flowers, forms a soft mat three inches high when not blooming, but reaches twelve inches when in bloom. The stems of this creeping herb root themselves as they spread, thus making a good lawn substitute. It can be sown by seeds or division.

Matricaria recutita is a summer annual that stands 2 1/2 feet tall and has finely cut, fernlike foliage. It grows easily in full sun and requires little water once established.

Tasty Herb Tea

For jangled nerves or an upset stomach, a cup of chamomile tea just might do the trick. Snuggle up in bed with a mug of this flowery tisane and your favorite book. Or serve it with pound cake or not-too-sweet cookies for dessert.

1 tablespoon dried chamomile
1 teaspoon apple mint
1 teaspoon dried hibiscus flowers
1 teaspoon dried lemon grass

Combine herbs in a teapot and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Stir with a wooden spoon or chopstick. Place lid on pot and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and serve.

An Herbal Bath Pouch

What could be better on a cold winter's night than a hot bath scented with herbs?

1 tablespoon dried chamomile
1 tablespoon lavender leaves
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon mint, thyme, sage, or basil
1 5 x 5 inch square of cheesecloth
1 rubber band
1 ribbon, long enough to hang the bag from the tap

Place the herbs in the center of the square of cheesecloth. Gather up the corners and secure the pouch with the rubber band. Tie the ribbon around the rubber band, creating a loop. Hang the herbal pouch by the loop from the tap, allowing the water to run through the pouch. When the tub is full, lengthen the loop and immerse the pouch in the bath water. Reuse the pouch by drying after use, and replacing the herbs as they lose their aroma.

ANISE: This licorice-tasting herb is equally at home on the spice rack as it is in the medicine cabinet.

Anise, one of the oldest known herbs, may be indigenous to Egypt and Asia Minor, but it's been cultivated so long, it's hard to tell. The ancient Egyptians grew anise for food, drink, and medicine, using both the feathery leaves and licorice-flavored seed. The pharaohs' medical texts prescribe the aromatic plant for stomach complaints, bladder ailments, and toothache. Egyptian anise was famous in the ancient world, second only to the Cretan variety.

The Romans planted the herb all over Tuscany for use in their special spiced cake, mustaceum, which also contains cumin, new wine, fat, cheese, and grated bay bark, and is baked on bay leaves-the world's first spiced wedding cake. The Romans brought anise north to Europe and England. Greek and Roman medical writers recommended suspending anise from a pillow to give the sleeper youthful looks and good dreams.

The herb is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, and it shows how valuable an herb it was-mint, anise, and cumin were used to pay tithes. Charlemagne commanded, in the 9th century AD, that the herbs (including anise) growing in Saint Gall's monastery should be planted on all his royal estates, thus spreading the fragrant plant further through Europe. The herb became so valuable in England that importers paid a tax on it. During the reign of Edward I, anise was one of the drugs taxed when carried across the Bridge of London. Cloth bags filled with iris and anise scented the royal linens of Edward IV. Ibn Baithar, the 13th century physician and botanist from Malaga, Spain, mentions its medicinal value.

The American colonists brought the valuable herb to the new world. In 1619, the first Assembly of Virginia decreed that "each man, as he is settled upon his division, plant (among other plants) six aniseeds and that each are to make trial thereof the nexte season." Anise's long popularity throughout so many lands stems from its many uses: culinary, household, cosmetic, aromatic, and medicinal.

All parts of the plant can be used in the kitchen. The seed flavors baked goods, such as German springerle and Italian biscotti, cream cheese, pickles, curries, coleslaw, egg dishes, and liqueurs, such as the French pastis and Greek ouzo. Anisette combines anise, coriander, and fennel seeds in sweet vodka. The flowers can be added to fruit salads, as can the leaves. Freshly-chopped leaves also enhance dips, cheese spreads, vegetables, or green salads. Mixed into stews and soups, the stem and roots of anise give just a hint of licorice.

As a beauty aid, the ground seeds are added to face packs, and the oil scents perfumes, toothpastes, soaps, and mouthwashes. Crushed seeds can be used in potpourri.

Medicinally, an infusion of anise seed makes an antiseptic tea for colds and coughs. It soothes colic in babies and helps nausea. Its essential oil helps to expel gas. Gently crush one to two teaspoons of anise seed to release the essential oil. Pour one cup of boiling water over the seeds and steep for five to ten minutes.

Anise, along with carrots, belongs to the Umbelliferae family. These plants have rounded or flat-topped flower clusters with individual flower stalks rising from the same point, forming an umbrella shape; in fact, umbella is Latin for "parasol." The graceful, attractive annual grows to two feet tall from a thin, spindle-shaped root. The plant has two types of leaves; lower down on the plant they are bright green, and oval-shaped with toothed edges. The upper leaves are smaller, elongated, and divided into three segments. The plant bears tiny white flowers in dense umbels three inches across.

Home-grown anise seeds are much more potent than store-bought, making anise well worth cultivating. The versatile herb grows readily from seed and prefers a moderately rich, well-drained alkaline loam, with a sunny and sheltered exposure. Sow the seeds outside where they're to be grown in late spring (anise doesn't transplant well), and thin to eight inches apart when plants are a few inches high. It can be grown indoors successfully, too.

The plants flower six weeks after sowing. Harvest the lower leaves as needed and collect the flowers as they open. To harvest the seeds, cut the plant at ground level when it begins to turn gray-green at the tips. Dry the seeds by hanging the plant upside down, tying a paper bag over the seed heads to catch the seeds as they fall. Seeds to be sown next year should be kept in a cool, dark place.

For cooking, beauty and health, grow anise and you'll be growing a bit of history.

Anise Cookies

These warm, licorice-falvored treats are always a hit!

1/4 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons whole anise seeds
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400° and lightly spray two cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and anise seeds. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Using a teaspoon, drop dough onto prepared cookie sheets and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 36 cookies.

L/O PER COOKIE: 50 CAL (32% from fat), 1g PROT, 2g FAT, 8g CARB, 41mg SOD, 15mg CHOL, .7g FIBER.

Fruit and Flower Salad

Dress up a summer fruit salad with delicate white anise flowers.

1 cantaloupe, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
1 cup blackberries
1 tablespoon chopped anise leaves
Juice of 1 small orange
2 tablespoons anise flowers

In a shallow serving bowl, combine fruit, anise leaves, and orange juice. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours. Scatter flowers over salad before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

V PER SERVING: 78 CAL (9% from fat), 2g PROT, 1g FAT, 18g CARB, 12mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 3g FIBER.