Eating Seasonally: Prepare for Flu Season now!

Elderberries are in season on the Pacific NW and may be in your area as well! If, like me, you’re too sensitive to traces and cross contamination to tolerate any of the prepackaged elderberry syrups or prepackaged dried elderberries, now is the time to stock up on the wild foraged stuff and freeze or dehydrate to make into syrup for the flu season. Not familiar with elderberries and why I’d want them for the winter?

Where to Get Them

What we have growing wild and native in the area is blue elderberry. There may be some folks growing black elderberry in the area, but I haven’t found them. Let me know if you know of any in the Western Washington area or even down in to Oregon. If you live outside of the Pacific NW, you may have a different species available to you. The most common species seems to be American Elder, which has a strong folk tradition of medicinal use, but please do your own research and don’t just go taking herbs on my say so.

Only black elderberry (sambucus nigra) has been officially studied for its medicinal effects but I am taking a chance on blue elderberry being as good for you since it’s what I have access to. There’s at least enough folk wisdom referenced about the use of blue elderberry for medicinal purposes to make me feel comfortable doing so. Foraged and Found Edibles at the Seattle Farmer’s market has them right now and hopefully will for a couple more weeks. I emailed ahead and asked them for 13lbs to pick up at the market and he had a box just all prepped for me to pick up when I arrived.

How to Process Elderberries

Note that the stems and unripe berries are toxic, so you will want to carefully pick over your berries and remove those. What I do is wash them and place them still on the stems on baking sheets in my freezer. Then when they’re frozen I take a fork and pull the berries off the stems and remove as many of the stems as I can. I flash freeze again since the berries have melted a bit while I do that, then pick over to get the last of the stems and green berries out and then put into quart bags to freeze. Some stems still make it into the bags so I will rinse them and sift yet again before using.

You could also dehydrate the berries. I just chose to freeze mine.

How to Use and How Much to Store

Here is the recipe I use to make elderberry syrup. 1 cup of berries should make 1.5 cup sof syrup, and 1.5 cups of syrup will make about 5-6 days of doses for one person at the recommended 1 tsp every 2-3 hours.  My 13 lbs of berries made about 8.5 quarts without the stems so that’s about 170 days of flu-level elderberry syrup doses, give or take. Should be plenty for two for the winter, heheh.

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Relief for Food Poisoning

I’ve been eating a lot of shellfish lately because I’ve got a local hookup who doesn’t slurry-ice them. Well, it turns out when I’ve been steaming them, I haven’t been cooking them long enough. The Washington state DOH says:

  • If boiling, continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes after shells open.
  •  If steaming, continue to cook for 4 to 9 minutes after shells open.

I was just cooking them until their shells opened, which is what I had been taught by someone or other. That’s been fine for me for a while, but when I woke up at 3am this morning extremely nauseated, you know my first suspicion was the dozen steamed oysters I ate last night.

While I don’t know for SURE that what I had was food poisoning, it really felt like the beginnings of the last round that I had. Nausea, bloating, gas, cramping. Considering that the nausea was so intense that it woke me up out of a dead sleep, I assumed within the next 5-10 hours it’d be like someone stepped on a ketchup packet.

Well, I happened to have some activated charcoal, and I followed these instructions:

  • Took about 1/2-2/3rds tsp of activated charcoal. I dumped out capsules into water and chugged. I am no longer recommending the charcoal I’ve been using because I asked the manufacturer what the plant source was and they *didn’t know. Also it has come to my attention that there are different methods of “activating” charcoal. The manufacturer of CharcoCaps brand activated charcoal has assured me that their charcoal is from coconut husks and is steam-activated rather than acid activated. I will probably go with that after my current bottle runs out. Note that there is a “homeopathic remedy” from CharcoCaps that has lots of iffy ingredients, that is NOT what you want. You want this stuff.
  • Mixed about 2oz of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar with a mug full of water and sipped. I heated my ACV in the microwave because I react to live yeast, but once it’s killed I am fine. Raw is better for you if you can tolerate it.

The nausea passed after the first dose, within 20 minutes. I had another hour or two of, ahem, toilet time, and then was able to fall asleep. I now feel weak, but never had the intense hours of expelling all of the water in my body from every orifice at once. I cannot properly express how relieved I am to not have gone through that again.

I don’t know for a fact that doing this actually stopped the progress of the food poisoning, but I don’t think doing any of it is harmful for ya, so I thought I’d pass it along as a thing to try. Oh,it is important to drink a LOT of water when using detox aids like charcoal or bentonite clay.

How NOT to Treat Eye Infections

Spoiler alert: This is more of a narrative of my mishaps, and does not end in a solid conclusion about the correct way to handle eye infections with a corn allergy.

I don’t know why, but for some reason after going most of my young/young adult life without an eye infection, I have gotten bacterial pinkeye TWICE in the last three years! The first time the cause was obvious- a coworker had children with the infection, and I managed to catch it from her despite my best efforts at handwashing and avoidance.

This time? I don’t even know what happened. I wasn’t doing things considered bacterially risky such as hanging out with petri dishes small children or rubbing my eyes excessively. Probably I just touched the wrong grocery cart or doorknob and then had an itch, and my body has been pretty susceptible to infection lately due to a convergence of allergens. Now, it is totally possible to have non-bacterial conjuctivitis, however given the onset and symptoms, I felt pretty sure it was bacterial.

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