I recently received a wonderful book entitled, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley. http://sioux-chef.com/ These 2 fabulous cooks are at the forefront of food in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. They are quickly gaining popularity for their use of fresh, local foods but what I love best about this book is its fresh new look at using traditional herbs and spices, specifically those from the American Indian culture. Sherman is making it a mission to reintroduce the traditional foods and spices used by his people to help improve diets of American Indians. Many of the seasonings are commonly used in Western herbalism. Here are a 3 of my personal favorites that appear in the book;
Bergamot Naming of this plant can be quite confusing. Monarda fistulosa is the pictured North American herb variety in Sherman’s book, not true Bergamot which is actually a citrus tree grown in Italy. It was named “Wild Bergamot” due to its similarity to the European variety. It is also known in some Native cultures as “Oswego tea, sweet leaf “or my favorite, “Indian perfume” reflecting its wonderful fragrance and taste. Mathew Wood has a wonderful discussion of the Native use of this plant in his book,http://www.woodherbs.com/Wisdom.html It is a perfect addition to any wildflower garden as a pollinator plant and is my plant of choice for drawing heat from skin (sunburn especially) or burning pain with a urinary tract infection. Similar to other mints it can have a carminative action for aiding digestion making it perfect for a meal I love to sprinkle this on salads for its beauty but also added spice. It makes a wonderfully refreshing after dinner tea also.
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) is common the Midwest and easy to spot along the roadsides. The fruit sits nicely at the top of the scrub which can get up to 30 ft high! The fruit clusters at the end of the stalk are tight with hairy red berries. This is best harvested when dry and has a lovely citrus flavor and red color similar to hibiscus when infused. I have had this most often as a wonderful twist to lemonade but the berries crushed and dried make beautiful additions to a salad, soup or stew. I add this to my dressings during the holiday season for some color as well as tang. Additionally, they are high in vitamin C and can be used with infections especially that are of a cold and dry nature.
Juniper (Juniperus communis) The dominant flavor in gin, juniper berries has a strong aromatic quality of pine. They are often used in ailments of the kidneys and in kidney detoxifying conditions such as gout. They have also been used to relieve congestion and improve breathing. The German E commission has approved Juniper for the treatment of dyspepsia or indigestion. Combined in a mild flavored sauce a little bit can go a long way to adding flavor. I like to add juniper to feta cheese for a spread or dip.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, I can think of no better time to integrate some of these indigenous treats into your holiday celebration. Here is a recipe for Cranberry Suace from Sherman’s book that I especially love!
11/2 cups cranberries fresh or frozen, 1/4 cup cider, 1/4 maple syrup salt to taste, juniper crushed to taste.
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to simmer stirring occasionally. Cook until cranberries pop and sauce thickens. Press with a spoon through a sieve over a mixing bowl to get all the fruit pulp. Adjust for seasonings. Can be served warm or cold. (I like to leave all the pulp in my sauce!)