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cynthia brian

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Empowerment
cynthia brian

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by Cynthia Brian

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” Oscar Wilde

In the fall of my freshman year at UCLA, I began working at one of the very first health food stores ever created in California. It was called Nature’s Health Cove and all the offerings were organic: pesticide, insecticide, and colorant-free. The fruits and vegetables were pathetic looking. Worms bored into apples, the Swiss chard had holes from munching snails, greens boasted fringed tips, a gift from hungry marauding rabbits, tomatoes were cracked, zucchini was malformed. Yet the produce tasted delicious and even though the prices were at least double of anything one could purchase at a grocery store, the crops sold rapidly. One of my tasks was to cull through any severely damaged items, putting them in a bucket for a compost pick up by an urban farmer. 

Having worked in the fruit drying yards and big barn dehydrators growing up on our farm, it dawned on me that usually, half or more of any fruit or vegetable is salvageable. I suggested to the owner that perhaps we could cut out the decaying parts and create healthy drinks and dried snacks with the ripe remainders. The initiative became an instant success with both students and the general public clamoring for a revolving menu of inexpensive tasty treats.

Farm Dedydrator barn.jpghttps://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1315/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Fall-forward-and-waste-not.html

As summer collapses into fall, my trees and vines are heavy with fruit. As much as I eat and give away, there is still more for the picking. I detest waste and besides canning and freezing the extras, I wanted to create some of the dried fruits of my youth.

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While cleaning out one of our barns this summer, I came upon a vintage portable dehydrator that my Grandfather used eons ago to dry his autumn bounty of pears, apples, figs, and grapes.  I cleaned the appliance and set to work slicing and dicing. 

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The results are phenomenal.

If you’ve bought any dried fruit lately, you know how expensive it is. But if you are like me and enjoy DIY projects, I have a simple recipe for you to create your own personal organic fruit leathers. You can use trays and dry your produce in the sun the way it has been done for centuries, but it takes longer and critters may creep in to steal your sweets. My suggestion is to purchase a small dehydrator with four or five drawers. My dehydrator has four drawers and only a single heat setting. My thermometer says it’s dehydrating at 125 degrees, which is perfect. Every three hours I move the drawers from the bottom to the top.  From start to finish, it takes 24 hours. If you buy a dehydrator with adjustable temperature settings, you’ll be able to dehydrate more rapidly.

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Here’s what to do:

  1. 1. Wash and pat dry your desired fruit and vegetables.
  2. 2. You can peel if you wish, but I don’t. Cutaway any bruised or damaged parts. Cut into slices about ¼ to ½ inch thick.
  3. 3. Some vegetables including eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, and radishes need to be blanched for a few minutes. 
  4. 4. Cut the slices in a bowl and toss with lemon juice or apple vinegar to reduce browning. Although this step is optional, it helps in preservation.
  5. 5. Spray the trays with a light spritz of canola or olive oil to prevent sticking.
  6. 6. Place slices of the same fruit or vegetable on dehydrator racks in a single layer without overlapping. Use different trays for different varieties.
  7. 7. Check on the process until when done. Let the racks cool before removing the fruit.
  8. 8. You can enjoy your items immediately but if you want to store your stash, pack the dried fruit in glass jars or sealable plastic bags. Shake jars or bags once day to make sure there is no condensation. If there is any moisture, return the product to the dehydrator for a bit more drying. 
  9. 9. Store in a pantry or room temperature darkened area.
  10. 10. Voila! Your very own dried fruit and leathers.Finished fruit leather.jpg

You can also put the dried fruit in bags and freezer. I’ve experimented with over-ripe bananas, apples, pears, Asian pears, and I even made raisins with chardonnay grapes, seeds, and all. Crunchy! Everything turns out delicious and I know these dried trials are nutritious because except for the bananas, they originate in my organic orchard. My next testing will be to make sweet potato chips from the sweet potatoes I’m growing. I plan to go exotic by drying mangoes, strawberries, pineapple, and papayas. 

Recently we witnessed a rise of what I call the “ugly fruit”. Stores, farmer’s markets, and on-line sites are popularizing the value of imperfect produce. This is a giant step forward in eliminating waste and re-educating our families to value all products provided by nature.  Farmers using organic methods know that crops are not always pretty, but the nutritional value and health benefits outweigh perfection of form. 

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As summer slowly fades into fall, I wish you abundance and a garden of eating.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Guide

PRUNE “widow makers”, dead branches on trees. You can identify the dead branches before the leaves fall from the rest of the tree. 

CHECK the crape myrtles in bloom. If you are considering planting a tree or two later in autumn, this is the perfect time to decide what color will be an advantage to your landscape. Crape myrtles are excellent specimens for year-round attractiveness. The leaves will turn red and golden in late autumn, the bark is bare and beautiful in winter, the leaves are shiny green in spring, and the tree blooms midsummer to late fall.

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REFRIGERATE crocus, tulips, and hyacinths for six weeks before planting.

ADD aged chicken manure to your soil if you are noticing that it is less fertile.

MARK your calendar for a visit to the Be the Star You Are!® non-profit booth at the Moraga Pear and Wine Festival on Saturday, September 28th.  Thanks to our sponsor, The Lamorinda Weekly. Details at https://www.BetheStarYouAre.org/events.

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DEADHEAD tuberous begonias to keep them blooming until frost. The flowers are edible with a tangy, citrusy flavor.

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ENJOY the final days of freshly picked tomatoes tossed with basil or cilantro.

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HARVEST tangerines, Asian pears, and grapes as they ripen.

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PHOTOGRAPH your deciduous trees as the changing colors emerge. The contrast of colors will amaze you as you reflect on the time-line.

DEHYDRATE extra fruit and vegetables for tasty snacks. Kids especially love these dried sweets.

CUT and compost the damaged parts from “ugly” produce and cook with the rest. 

WASTE NOT! Be a steward of our planet with simple up-cycling.

WELCOME the cool and crisp days of autumn. Fall forward!

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. 

See photos and read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1315/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Fall-forward-and-waste-not.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. 

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Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of her new books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. BE StarYouAre_Millennials to Boomers Cover.jpeg

Cynthia Brian'Growing with the Goddess Gardener book copy.jpgBack cover-Growiung  6 x 6 – Version 3.jpg

Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

 

Tea For Two…or Three, Four, or More!

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Empowerment
Tea For Two…or Three, Four, or More!

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“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Henry James

From the time my daughter, Heather, was three years old, we enjoyed a ritual of drinking tea. Of course, it all began with Teddy Bear picnics and pretend doll teas. One day it escalated to brewing “real” herbal teas from the garden until it became our signature sacred Mother/Daughter sacrament where we would solve the woes of the world, and our own challenges, over an exotic potion crafted from what we grew. 

Although we had consumed tea as children in my family, the formal tradition of afternoon tea began for me when I was a teen ambassador to Holland where I lived for 18 months. Every afternoon at 4:00 p.m. sharp, families, shopkeepers, professionals, and everyone else would stop to have a cup of tea.  Tea bags were never used.  All teas were brewed from loose leaves, and mixing up various concoctions was an honored ritual.  Having tea and a “sweet”, usually a homemade shortbread or perhaps a slice of cake, was the perfect remedy for the midday drags.  At exactly 4:30, it was back to work, school, and obligations. 

Creating your own organic tea garden is easy and incredibly rewarding.  Fruits, flowers, stems, and leaves can all be used to create luscious hot or cold beverages that can relax, revitalize, energize, and calm.  I am a huge fan of citrus. Lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, tangelos all add a tremendous amount of zip and zest to teas. 

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When I have to perform for a speaking engagement, or on a TV or radio show, I always drink several cups of a delicious natural brew from my garden that includes the juice, rinds, and leaves of Meyer lemons, mint, chamomile, and honey. My throat and vocal chords are cleared and my nerves are calmed allowing me to perform with confidence.

Plant Picks

Here are my picks for planting a tea garden in sun or shade. The bonus is that these are hardy perennials that will provide endless ingredients for a plethora of sweet and savory recipes including brewing tea!

Bee Balm (citrus/spice flavor)

Calendula (poor man’s saffron)

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Catnip (lemony-mint flavor…cats love to roll in this herb)

Chamomile (apple scented)

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Coriander (the seeds of cilantro offer warmth)

Fennel (licorice flavor)

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Lavender

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Lemon verbena (lemony flavor)

Mint (spearmint, peppermint, pineapple mint, or chocolate mint. Keep contained, if possible, as all mints are invasive.)

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Nasturtium (reseeds itself annually)

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Rose (the fragrance of the rose will determine the flavor)

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Rosemary

Sage

Scented geranium and pelargonium

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Viola (light violet flavor)

Storing

Any herb or edible plant that you enjoy can be made into tea. Harvest early in the morning to capture the essential oils. Place the cuttings in a bowl of cool water to wash off any dirt or debris. Herbs can then be used fresh or they can be hung in a cool dark place to dry. Another easy drying technique is to place cleaned herbs, leaves, and flowers on a cookie sheet to dry in the sun.  Or a fun trick to dry your teas is to put the cookie sheet with your herbs on the seat of your car with the windows rolled up. Park the car in the sun and within a few hours, your herbs will be dry and your car will smell garden fresh! Double win.

When storing herbs, make sure to label and date them to avoid confusion later.  You can also freeze herbs in zip seal bags or make pretty herbal ice cubes for your next celebration. Ice cubes made from rose petals, violets, and the flowers of herbs are especially intriguing.

Brewing

There are numerous ways to brew your teas. For hot teas, I fill a pretty teapot with the various ingredients that I think are needed for that day. Add boiling water to the concoction, allowing it to steep for 15 to 20 minutes. In the summer months, I muddle fruits in season––apricots, cherries, plums, peaches, grapes, and strawberries. Using a strainer, I pour the tea into my favorite cups. (Tea drinking is a celebratory act and it is more festive to serve your teas in a cup that is appealing.)  Another easy way is to use a press pot, called a French press, which I also use for my morning java. When you make your tea in clear glass you get to enjoy the mix of colors. Any leftover tea is poured into a glass pitcher and stored in the refrigerator for a refreshing cold brew.

Many people prefer to make a carafe of sun tea. In a clear glass jug, pour cold water over all of the ingredients you desire. Place the container in full sun with a lid or foil cover.  It will take a full day to brew sun tea with the reward of a rich and robust taste.

 Whether you enjoy fragrant, sweet, piquant, or spicy, tea making is available to you from your garden. After a productive day of working in the garden, I reward my handiwork while sipping a tall glass of iced sun tea concocted from herbs, flowers, and fruits from my own plants. Ah, what a relaxing elixir pausing in the afternoon for tea is.  

For years, my daughter and I hosted a radio segment and wrote a column called Tea for Two: A Mother/Daughter Brew. Today, a cup of tea still connects us to continual conversation.Heather's shower Eileens - 17.jpg

 

Plant your garden. It’s teatime.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Tips

  • MULCH your yard with three inches of wood chips or other organic materials to maintain temperature, prevent erosion, and keep your plants happy for the forthcoming hot weather.
  • FERTILIZE with all purpose feed before the heat hits.
  • PLANT Mexican Evening Primrose along a fence or in a wild setting for a pretty pop of pink that blooms only in daylight and thrives in poor soil.
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  • WATER your garden early in the morning, then at dusk for maximum absorption and minimal waste. 
  • BUY elegant, long lasting peonies to add to your collection. Peonies like six hours of full sun in well-drained soil and they can live for 50 years or more. They bloom through June and their glossy green leaves remain green through winter when they die back to the ground, reemerging in spring. Peonies are one of my very favorite, no fuss, flowering shrub. 
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  • GROW a tea garden in containers filled with herbs and edible fragrant flowers such as rose, calendula, nasturtium, and lavender. 
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Enjoy your final days of spring with a cup of your homegrown tea.  

Read more at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1208/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-Tea-for-two-or-three-four-or-more.html

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. 

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of the new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store

Cynthia Brian'Growing with the Goddess Gardener book.jpg

Available for hire for projects and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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50 Shades of Vegetables: Are You Having the Most Important Relationship in Your Life? By Lorraine Giordano

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Health & Wellness
50 Shades of Vegetables: Are You Having the Most Important Relationship in Your Life? By Lorraine Giordano

Valentine’s Day inspires love and connection. Don’t forget to strengthen your relationship with your mind-body-spirit by seeking out what inspires you and involves fun! Consider including more vegetables and fruits to enhance your health. There’s plenty of options of veggies and fruits…even 50 shades darker! Check out easy tips in this @HuffingtonPost blog to create an intoxicating bond with vegetables and take advantage of their health benefits.  

More Here!

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