Boost Your Immunity with Food

Sorry – there still isn’t a magic pill that will cure your cold, sore throat, runny nose, or cough.  There are, however, some delicious foods that have been known to promote healing and boost immunity.  Even better, almost all of them can be grown and made at home from scratch!  Here’s what I reach for when cold and flu season arrives:

home-grown-teasSage Anise Hyssop Tea: We dry tea herbs and flowers from our garden so our pantry is stocked with quarts of home-grown flavors.  Any herbal tea will do when you have a sore throat or the chills.  Sometimes, though, I like to feel like I’m doing something specific about the cold symptom that is really bothering me.  Whenever I have a sore throat or cough, I turn to sage and anise hyssop with a teaspoon each of lemon juice and honey.  Try googleing other common household herbs – oregano, mint, ginger, and cinnamon all have remarkable health-boosting qualities and make delicious teas!

Elderberry Ginger Syrup:  When the Elderberries are ripe in August, we pick, de-stem, and freeze them in gallon bags.  That way we have plenty on hand throughout the winter for fresh batches of Elderberry Syrup.  I love mixing a splash of elderberry syrup and a splash of kombucha or raw apple cider vinegar into a cup of plain seltzer for a delicious and immune-boosting drink.

elderberry-syrup-2+ c. Elderberries
-3 ½ c. Water
-2 T. Ginger Root
-1 T. Cinnamon Powder
-1 T. Echinacea Root (optional)
-½ c.+ Raw Honey (to taste and preserve)

Bring all ingredients but honey to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered for about ½ hour. Cool slightly, smash, and strain.  Add honey while warm but not hot.  Refrigerate to store.

roasted-squash-seedsToasted Pumpkin and Squash Seeds:  These delicious snacks are high in zinc, an important mineral for immune system strength.  Gather the seeds removed from your pumpkin or squash into a bowl (the photo shows butternut squash seeds).  Pick out large pieces of guts (stringy slimy orange stuff).  There is no need to rinse – any orange stuff is just giving you more vitamins and will dry out in the oven.  Spread the seeds on a cookie tray, and sprinkle with salt (garlic powder or other spices can be good too).  Bake at 400 degrees, stirring every 5 minutes with a metal spatula.  Listen for popping and/or look for your seeds to turn golden brown – they’re done!  This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.  Don’t have an oven, cooking in a classroom with kids, or in a rush?  Use a frying pan or electric skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee and fry the seeds until golden brown.

Chicken Broth: Bone broths are healing and nutritious, and they’re very simple to make.  Making broth does take a while – it’s the perfect activity for a cozy day at home.  The warm steam will make your whole house smell delicious.  Use a chicken carcass or parts of the chicken that your local butcher would otherwise throw away.  Feet are especially great for making sure your broth has plenty of healing gelatin.  The pictures below show a broth I made with chicken necks and feet.

chicken-stock-Chicken bones with some meat and skin
-Onion, garlic, carrots and/or celery
-Sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley and any other favorite green herbs
-4 quarts of water
-Sea salt and pepper to taste
-Optional: 2 T. vinegar

This works great in a crock pot or on the stove.  If you want to get even more minerals out of the bones, soak chicken parts, water, and vinegar for 30 minutes before cooking.  Next, bring all ingredients – excluding the green herbs (like parsley) and seasoning – to a boil.  I use any old limp veggies from the back of my refrigerator to flavor the broth, so the exact amounts and ingredients change every time.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 to 24 hours.  Strain to remove solids.  I compost the veggies because they loose most their flavor.  Pick the meat off the bones.  Put the broth back into your pot and add picked meat, green herbs, and any additional vegetables you want.  Bring back to a boil and season to taste.

Wishing you a healthy fall and winter!

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