Wild Nourishment for Ramadan – Part 2
by Shumaisa Khan
Continuing with the theme of wild nourishment, in this post, I share some info about useful plants that grow around us – even in urban areas – which can be wonderfully supportive during Ramadan and beyond!
Given that we have only a few waking hours to nourish our bodies for the fast, why not incorporate these wonderful plants into our food and drink? You can even start gathering them now!
So grab some snippers and a bag or basket, and go plant-hunting!
Some general guidance for foraging:
- Forage in low traffic and pesticide-free areas (and also dog-free for low-growing plants)
- It’s courteous to ‘ask’ the plant for permission via your heart – they’re quite generous and won’t turn you down, but doing this reinforces a spiritual connection
- Be 100% sure that the plant is what you think it is!
- Take only about 10% of any given stand of plants, and take a little from each individual plant rather than stripping much of any single plant
- Shake before putting in your bag to allow bugs to escape
- Express your heart-felt gratitude to the plant
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Don’t be deceived by this stinging friend – she is actually quite generous, with significant amounts of iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese and vitamins A, C and D. She is renowned for her blood-building qualities!
Be sure to wear gloves when harvesting, and pick the top few leaves of the plant.
Do not harvest when the plant is flowering, as it develops gritty particles which can irritate your urinary tract once ingested. Some of the nettle near me is already flowering, but some isn’t… If you start looking now, you should be able to find some to harvest.
Prepare by first blanching in boiling water for a minute – then you can cool and use to make pesto, throw into a smoothie, or just cook as you would cook spinach. If you harvest a lot, you can blanch, puree and freeze this for later use.
Or you can dry the leaves in a basket, on a screen, or on newspaper, turning periodically, to use for tea (infuse in boiled water for several hours to extract the most out of it). Later on, when the flowers have gone to seed, you can harvest the seeds, which have the same benefits as the leaves, but in a more concentrated form – and sprinkle on foods or add to smoothies.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Yes, these prolific and cheerful plants, sadly considered a pest, are actually quite good for us! Dandelions are full of vitamins A, B, C, and D, and minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc.
The bitter taste facilitates digestion and liver detoxification; the leaves are particularly good for the kidneys, and the roots for the liver and gallbladder.
You can use the leaves and flowers in salads. The root, when dried and ground, makes a good coffee substitute – though it’s best to harvest roots in the spring or fall.
Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)
Wild garlic is just as yummy as cultivated garlic, and shares the same properties –
it is antibacterial, antiviral, can lower blood pressure, etc. Throw it into your salads, pesto, pasta, daal…so many possibilities!
Hawthorn flowers (Crataegus monogyna)
Trees and hedges laden with fragrant hawthorn blossoms are one of the most beautiful sights of springtime. These flowers are strengthening to the heart and nervous system, helping with issues of anxiety, restlessness, nervous spasms, arrhythmia, and angina through their calming effect. They are also high in antioxidants!
Please note that if you take a heart medication and consume hawthorn regularly, you should have your heart medications monitored by a physician.
You can dry the flowers and use as tea – infuse for 15 minutes to extract the most goodness out – either on their own, or with fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, or dried rose petals. Later in the year, you can also gather the haws, or berries, which have similar properties.
Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)
To me, elderflower cordial evokes the joys of summertime – for what is summer without cool, refreshing drinks?
Did you know that elderflower also contains antioxidants, including vitamin C and flavonoids? You can easily make your own cordial for iftaar using natural, treatment-free honey, date syrup, or even dates to sweeten instead of sugar.
You can also dry the flowers for use as a tea. Later in the year, elderflower tea will come in handy during cold and flu season (along with the berries) due to its stimulating effect on the immune system and ability to reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms.
Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
Herb robert has iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, in addition to important vitamins (A, B, and C).
But what makes this herb stand out is its germanium, a chemical which helps improve cellular oxygenation and has a high antioxidant capacity; the oxygenation is thought to help heal benign tumors.
Its numerous other benefits include helping natural resistance to stress, regulating metabolism, and decreasing blood pressure. You can use fresh or dried flowers and leaves in tea, or use it when juicing or making smoothies.
Rose (Rosa spp)
Rose is sent to earth by the gardeners of paradise for empowering the mind, the eye and the spirit. – Rumi
Aaah, rose – the queen of flowers – is there anything quite like it? Rose has figured prominently in many cultures throughout time, but its benefits for the heart and mind are thought to have first been expounded by Ibn Sina (Avicenna). Rose petals help alleviate stress and nervous tension, cleanse the liver and gall bladder – improving bile flow – and are soothing for sore throats.
The image I’ve pinned here is of wild roses, but you can use any kind of rose, as long as it hasn’t been treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizer.
You can gather the flowers, remove the petals, and dry to use as a tea. You can also infuse the fresh petals in honey – if so, use (preferably local) honey produced by beekeepers practicing treatment-free beekeeping – this supports the beekeeper and the bees.
To do this, fill a clean, dry jar with petals and cover with honey – let infuse for 1 – 2 weeks and then place jar in a pot of hot water so that it’s partially submerged. When the honey becomes runny, strain into another clean jar.
Of course, besides ingesting roses, you may want to simply be with them – whether outdoors or in your home.
Note: The information in this post is for supporting well-being through incorporation into food & drink (not medicinal dosages), and is not meant for treating any conditions. Please consult with a qualified health care provider if you have a condition that requires treatment.