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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Balsam Flower - Magic of Medicinal Herbs and Flowers



   
Balsam flowers

While a huge variety of seasonal flowers grow on our planet when it is neither too hot nor too cold, unfortunately many of us do have to put up with extreme heat or cold for a part of the year. In northern Indian plains, summer temperatures may easily exceed 40 Celsius in the months of April, May and June and it is only the early mornings and evening that are cool to get out into the garden and have late evening garden parties. However the difficulty at this time is what flowers to grow in the garden. Few can tolerate that heat. However, with the grace of the Lord, there are some. The most popular are Zinnia, the yellow Cosmos, Portulaca and Balsam. This year some balsam seeds have sprouted out in my garden but they are yet to blossom.

The botanical name of the flower is Impatiens Balsamina.  It is an annual plant growing to 20–75 cm tall, with a thick, but soft stem.  Aside from the flowers the plant has beautiful leaves that are toothed and spirally arranged and that is something one has to look for in a pretty garden. The flowers range in color from purple to red, pink to white and shades in between.

The Balsam is a medicinal plant. The crushed leaves as well as flowers have a topical application on skin and hair. It is good for burns, skin blemishes and warts and on joints this application reduces pain.  The decoction of the flowers is great as a medicinal floral tea. It improves digestion, sex life for men and relieves constipation. It also purifies the system by promoting much forceful urination. Aside from folk knowledge there also exists a substantial body of modern scientific research on extracts of this plant. The interested reader may locate these easily through a Google search of the scientific name of this flower. Needless to say the tea is not recommended for those who already have a laxative stomach.

A Private Party Menu

Here is a full private party prescription just for two in romantic love and newly married couples keen to begin a family quickly on an appropriate and desirable occasion at the right time in a month,  that could get one steaming after the following simple dinner that does not have any thing expensive like caviar or Salmon on the list nor anything complicated as several courses, there won't be time for all that in any case on this one,

  1. Three or four days before the party, start drinking a cup of tea made from a mix of  dried Balsam flowers and dried Horny Goat weed leaves sweetened with honey. Use a tablespoon each of the dried herbs and flowers. In case you are on a regular medication for any condition, especially blood pressure skip the horny goat weed part and only use balsam flowers. Please do not have this tea for more than a few days a month. It can harm then.
  1. The recommended drink for the evening party is two glasses of green coconut water. In case you consume alcoholic drinks at parties; you may add an ounce of scotch whiskey and some ice to the coconut water (name of the cocktail is Pee Johnny). However do not exceed two such drinks to be consumed before or through dinner.
  1. The snacks before the meal is almonds fried in butter but no more than ten each, and some or all of the following:  white/green table grapes, cos or iceberg lettuce central leaves dressed with just a hint of olive oil and vinegar (do not sprinkle any salt or the leaves will go limp), pickled olives ( green not ripe), thin slices of a strong cheese. All snacks in very small servings please so as not to ruin the dinner, to be eaten with  fingers.
  1. The menu for the dinner is sliced onions fried in butter sprinkled with a  bit of ground cloves instead of black pepper, a two egg omelet with sliced button mushrooms, and steamed asparagus tips/spears, and a small dinner roll or toast and butter. Use any sauce that you fancy with the dinner menu, white tartar, red ketchup or yellow mustard. However, the Chinese red chilli sauce would be the best. If you wish for the dinner to have an exotic touch sprinkle some grated black Truffle on the omelet and garnish the asparagus serving with some some freshly crushed dried buds of lavender. The fried onions may be piled on the toast cut in two halves like an open sandwich. Remember no wine is to be served with this meal, just the coconut water-scotch cocktail drink or plain coconut water and thereafter if one is thirsty just iced water during the meal and floral tea later as described next
  1. After dinner sip some of the Balsam plus Horny goat weed tea. In case you have Lavender or scented rose water add a dash of that to the tea. A few dried Lavender buds may be added while preparing the tea this time. Serve small chocolates broken into squares on the side. Extending the event is possible, in case you wish to stretch out the evening and are able to, by moving to the fireside rug with some chestnuts to roast in the fire.

Yes, a bit of effort to collect the whole lot of ingredients from the stores and garden (shade dried leaves and flowers from a home garden can be used for the tea) but then who said such things were meant to be organized at the drop of a hat; if you can not locate an ingredient or two suggested here, still go ahead, there is enough in there for fireworks anyway, :). The interested reader may learn more about the horny goat weed through a Google search perhaps beginning with this 


Horny Goat Weed

It may however be reminded that spiritual persons only recommend this sort of entertaining when procreation of new life is desired, best for young married couples looking forward to starting a family, and not for entertainment since far superior, long lasting rather than brief, forms of entertainment that elevate a soul lie in spiritual pursuits marked by abstaining from lust that leaves one drained of physical and spiritual energies when the event is over.  When such an indulgence is devoid of romantic love the loss is much greater. It is one of the major factors that ties the soul of a human to the ground and prevents it from rising to higher levels. An escape from it however does not lie in hypocrisy or suppression because that may lead a soul to the doors of hell. An escape from it occurs by an exploration and experience of higher goals.


Images Courtesy of:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Musings of a Mystic - The Lord and His Angels



There is one here
Who is so filled with greed
a little suffering for another
To fill his coffer
Doth more lust breed

He is merely a fool
Because he does not know
What a child doth know
A small stone on his brow
Will crush him like a flee
A small bone in his throat
Choke him in his pee
Small bacteria in his breath
Will torment in his bed

One teaches by example
Examples never fail to teach
One whose lust rapes a girl
Sets an example for some to breach
God forbid perhaps his gentle mother, sister
Even a daughter sweet
One who hurts another
Sets an example
For same to be done to him
God forbid, not before its been done
To his son very sweet

An angel of the Lord
Is one from amongst us
Just one more life
In this universe so very wide
Who loves the Lord so
To serve Him so
That there is nothing to cover
The light that shines forth
With his burdens lifted
Is it a surprise?
If far he flies

One who loves and trusts the Lord
How can the Lord disappoint such a soul?
But one who does not believe
How can the Lord interfere in his goal?
Yet all cry for Him
When difficulties arise
And this perhaps is His reply
Had you called in time
Why would difficulties arrive?

Secrets and deepest intrigues
Some for love some for discord
With much ease He does read
The angels and the Lord
A human judge one may mislead
Not the Lord, beware do heed



 


Public domain art images, courtesy of Wikipedia commons

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Good food on a low budget



 
Every now and then one hears of news items from the developed world as to how persons on a low income or welfare are trying to manage their food on a low budget and the difficulties they are facing. I have seen this at first hand with some of my students in Canada who were facing similar difficulties. Often I had to step in with a bit of friendly advice as to how to go about dealing with the situation based on my experience of South Asia where very many families have managed to get by on very little for centuries. In North Western India for example, these are the five things that bring down food costs when a household is facing financial difficulties:

  1. Meat is not consumed but when a vegetarian meal is balanced people are just as healthy or healthier. There are earlier posts in this blog describing how some of the healthiest, strongest and longest lived persons are in fact vegetarians or near vegetarians.
  2. All food items are prepared starting from basic ingredients rather than factory prepared or processed ones.
  3. Bread, usually unleavened flat bread, called roti or chapati, mostly from wheat is prepared fresh at home at every meal. Once one is experienced at preparing these, it does not take more than a few minutes a piece and it is something that can be prepared even on a small camp fire on just a flat plate of iron..
  4. The vegetables and lentil beans etc. if at all with a meal are seasonal ones, the cheapest in any season when one is poor.
  5. Use of low cost herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilies to improve the taste of a dish.

When these five rules are followed, food costs come down dramatically. Those who are better off add eggs and milk products to their daily diet to make it better and healthier but the poorest rural persons consume that only if they have a cow at home that is yielding milk.

Aside from carbohydrates and proteins a human needs a variety of other micro nutrients for robust health and these can be obtained from leafy green edible foliage, some that come from trees and some from the wild such as Dandeloin and Goosefoot and others that can be grown easily around a home even in containers such as celery and spinach. There are older posts in this blog that describes some of the healthiest of edible tree foliage such as white mulberry and drumstick. Most of such leafy greens can be dried in shade whenever available in abundance and stored in tight containers for adding later to soups and other dishes in order to enrich them. Persons living near forests have a great opportunity to collect these once they learn to recognize the different edible leaves that may grow in their area. Such crushed leaves can also be added to wheat flour for bread for better health and variety from time to time. Dehydration of vegetables was much used in Asia in older times to put a variety of vegetables on the table even when times or the season was harsh.

The difference between diet of rich and poor in South Asia is how many dishes of what accompany bread at a meal. The poorest might just manage with a pickle or an onion or a cheap seasonal vegetable such as goosefoot that comes up as a weed on farmlands in winters. The rich on the other hand have several dishes and side dishes to accompany every meal and use expensive ingredients such as cardamom, saffron and gold or silver leaf.

Understandably when there are several side dishes, the bread becomes smaller and thinner whereas for the poor it is thick and large, since most nutrition has to come out of that alone. It is easy to make out the financial background of a household in India by the thickness and size of the roti i.e. bread consumed regularly at home.

Just for a bit of diversion in to family trivia, My mother who belonged to an aristocratic family of north India moved to my father’s parental home that was less well off after marriage at a young age and was shocked to see the large size of rotis and talked of that till her last days. She would hold a hand to her mouth in a gesture of embarrassment and say, “ My God the size of those rotis --” However things changed when my father set up his own independent home and started a family. He had one of the best paid jobs of the times - an officer in the British India Army. Till years later my father’s sister who visited often would remark that she remained hungry at first because it took her time to get used to the vanishingly thin pieces of bread that were served with meals at our home. It takes a little time to adjust whenever food patterns change even for the better. In later years there were times in my father's life as well as mine when we went through difficult financial times for a few years at a time. The first was when my father had to get his sister married, the second when he incurred debt to build his own family home. In my own adult life, hard times were witnessed first when I had to set aside almost all of my assets for the future life of my daughters at the age of 41and again some years later again when I had to spend my last penny to build a home for my own living.  However, through all these periods of difficulty the family has managed to survive with low cost food that did not lead to any serious malnutrition and no severe health problems except for some weight loss, and all this was with the help of wisdom by the grace of the Lord..

Bread being central to diet and prepared at home brings down food costs drastically. The lord has made this humble grass food abundant on the planet. Wheat flour in India costs about four dollars for ten kilograms and perhaps would be around the same in other countries too. It is even less when wheat is ground at home. The hungriest of adults depending primarily on that can consume no more than 25 kilograms of wheat a month and that means around ten dollars is the base cost per person per month to mitigate hunger although bread alone does not mitigate malnutrition. Nevertheless it helps a person to buy time. The amount of wheat consumed comes down when other items are added to meals to accompany the bread and that is what South Asians do when they have more money available for food.

The closest analogy of the diet of a poor South Asian to food in the west is what is served in free soup kitchens, a loaf of bread and some soup or stew. However, it must be noted that even this costs significantly more if bread is bought from the market rather than prepared at home. Use of herbs and spices that do not cost much such as garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin and chilies fried in a bit of cooking oil are used routinely in South Asian dishes to improve the taste of a soup (called tari) that may not have much else besides water in it. There are chemicals available now that would do the trick but being chemicals are not good for health. When food tastes good and is cooked and served with love one digests it better and fares better. On the other hand an unpleasantly prepared meal that does not taste good may not do much for a human even when prepared with rich ingredients.

Food that is fresh and clean, prepared and served with love and care does far more good to a human than another that is otherwise even if prepared with richer ingredients
"Eat not the dainty meats and rich foods of the evil one; eat, eat he says to you but his heart is not with you and you shall vomit out what you have eaten and lose your good words" Old Testament
Home Made Pasta

For those who like pasta , home made pasta or pasta fresco is much healthier and much cheaper than the dried variety from the market. Kids love it. See an older post on how to make it easily at home along with recipes for a variety of sauces to go with it here:

http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2012/09/five-colors-of-spaghetti-sauce.html



This blogger wishes all humans everywhere may be able to procure the best of food at all times, but at the same time he also wishes that they know how to manage with less, when God forbid, times are hard. It is essential knowledge for all humans. One may find in history of how even some rich kings managed to bide their times in forests for extended periods based on this knowledge.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Non-Organic Human



Fruit and Vegetable Seller, Louise Moillon, 1631. Musée du Louvre


Vegetables and fruits come from plants that are a complimentary life form. They have genes, chromosomes and blood (chlorophyll) just like us except that at the center of the blood molecules in plants there is a magnesium atom instead of iron and therefore its color is green. Different shades of green in plants are because we see this green blood in combination with other plant matter that differs from plant to plant. 

The Universe created the two different life forms so that they may support each other and prosper together. Our waste including the carbon dioxide we breathe out as well as the other waste we produce daily is fresh food and air for plants. When we pass away, the bodies we leave behind provides more food for plants. Similarly the exhaled waste breath of plants- oxygen is fresh air for us. However while plants satisfy themselves with our waste we go further and kill them too for our food and that is not surprising when we even kill animals for that and in the past in some parts of the world even other humans for food directly, some preferring an arm and others a leg with a barbecue sauce  :). Now it is done indirectly by killing humans to maintain our economic and other interests or slowly by destroying their homes and pushing them out as refugees. After all humans have a mind and it is great for hypocrisy and maintaining a pretense to the background chant of holy, holy, holy. .

Plants excel from animal and humans in other ways too. They satisfy themselves with what comes unasked while doing a service to the planet, animals, birds and insects. On the other hand many a human would rob a bank with a gun or if they are afraid of the law, they may do it with a bonus the first chance they get.

It is only the rare human that will satisfy himself with food from plants without killing them and that kind of food from plants is in great abundance too beginning with food grains that grasses produce far in excess of their seed needs, fruits meant to drop off, excess foliage that sprouts in excess like hair on animals ready for a cut, left over root matter when plants go dead such as onions and potatoes too. There is an older post in this blog about precisely the kind of food that does not employ violence called Lovegan foods (see here)  However most any human will kill a plant with ease with a belief that human life is more precious than that of a vegetable. But wait a minute, even if that were true if one may so assume, humans are not doing that very intelligently, are they?

With the progress of science, many humans have realized that organic fruits and vegetables are healthier and prefer that, especially if they can afford it. Organic fruits and vegetables are those that make use of natural products only for their growth and do not make use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides. So the question that arises is why does a human who eats only organic food because chemicals make vegetables less than healthy makes his own body non-organic by eating a lot of processed food that uses chemical additives and also chemical drugs to ward off disease and chemical vitamins even when there is no dire emergency or a crying need just to add a quick muscle etc. and when a human will not do it on his own, governments may mandate chemical additives to food and vegetables or in schools as done in many countries around the world. Perhaps the philosophical side of Louise Mouillon the artist realized that as early as 1631 to depict some vegetables in a manner perchance suggesting what some humans put in their mouth may be less than elegant. LOL!