Namaste spice soul, so good to connect here. As I work to complete my Spice Deck and get it ready for publishing soon, I am immersed in the spices in a way that is energized with some serious magic. A mystical event is not really surprising when engaging with the spice medicines and yet it is always thrilling. A few days before, after I had finalized work on the Sumac Spice Card, I went for an evening walk with my beloved and we decided to take a different route than usual around the neighbourhood. I had an electric feeling in my body and I was thinking about Sumac.
After having poured through images of various types of Sumac that day, I felt a kinship with the tree and wondered when I would get to see one. I felt I had seen one before but had not introduced myself properly, if you know what I mean. Well, as we turned a corner just five blocks from our home in Vancouver BC, there it was, hard to see and barely lit on the new moon night. Even before I saw the flower-berries, I knew it was a Sumac just by the distinctive leaves. I experienced a slight bristle touching the furry berry-flowers that grow in almost conical shapes called drupes. The thought of a hairy berry doesn’t appeal, but of course the hairs are rubbed off before grinding the dried berries into a powdered spice. I reverently snapped off a drupe noting that the tree was adorned with plenty. Although this variety is mostly found in the Eastern part of North America, my find seems closest to Staghorn Sumac which feature velvety stems and pinkish-burgundy fluffy berries. Native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Sumacs are now found worldwide with multiple species in the Rhus genus within the Anacardiaceae family, which interestingly include cashews, mangos, and pistachios.
Messages from the natural world are not to be ignored and I consulted with the Sumac Spice Oracle Card to see what it was I needed to hear from this encounter. I will for sure be including this tangy spice in my food and beverage elixirs until the next new moon at least.
This sour and astringent berry is proven to have one of the highest antioxidant levels amongst all spices and fruits, even more than the deliciously nutritious and trending açai berry – made popular in smoothies and smoothie bowls. Antioxidants of course bring a host of anti-cancer, immune-boosting benefits, as well as being a blood cleanser, and all round heart tonic. The Sumac tree is also called the Lemonade or Vinegar Tree, and Sumac-ade is a well-loved drink made from the berries or the dried ground spice, it has the bright tart, refreshing effect that cools the Pitta fire and lightens Kapha heaviness as well as being a gentle digestive tonic.
SUMAC AS A SPICE-MEDICINE FOR THE LATE SUMMER SEASON:
A refreshing lemonade-like drink that is tart and sweet (with the addition of honey or maple syrup) and especially during a heatwave helps to cool the body and refresh the overheated, irritable Pitta mind.
YOU WILL NEED: 3 heaped TBSP of ground Sumac spice, 3 cups filtered water, 1-3 TBSP honey (sweeten to taste)
METHOD: Pour room-temperature filtered water over sumac in a large mason jar. Cover and steep overnight (8-12 hours). Strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth/filter. Add the honey to taste (you may add honey to 1/8 cup hot water first to dissolve, and then add. Add a slice of lime and a couple cubes of ice. Enjoy!
THIS incredible salty, tart, pungent, slightly sweet, savoury spice blend has adorned Middle Eastern dishes for centuries and is so easy to make and add to your daily aromanutrition. Full of nourishing rewards for your health, you can sprinkle lavishly on homemade pitta bread with olive oil, in salads, with yoghurt dips, on fruit, grilled veggies, the possibilities are endless – Za’atar goes with just about everything. The secret is the Sumac, and with the other herbaceous ingredients and a base of sesame seeds and salt, you get many essential vitamins and minerals in every serving. Make a nice big batch and keep for up to 3 months in a well-sealed jar. As we get ready for late Summer/early Fall, this calcium-rich blend is balancing to all body types when used as a condiment. Enjoy the Spice Mistress version of the classic Za’atar.
METHOD: Blend all spices, herbs and salt together, keep in airtight mason jar in a cool place.
VERY excitingly my 52 card Spice Deck and gorgeous companion booklet with Ayurvedic wisdom and kitchen medicine, is releasing on Kickstarter on September 20th on the Full Harvest Moon. How auspicious is that! I know many have been waiting for a long time for this and I have too : ) So much has happened to delay this beauty being born out into the world, but all good things are worth waiting for… stay tuned!
In the meantime acquire some real sumac spice (watch out for dyed imposters!) and get to know this magic bold spice – you have nothing to fear.
At 6.30am this morning, I pulled a Spice Oracle Card with a prayer for all beings everywhere. This was the exact time (Pacific Time) of the 2020 Autumnal Equinox. Magic happens at such an hour on such a Celestial occasion and so I suppose, although enchanted, I was not very surprised when I pulled the Sesame card.
SESAME SEED IS YOUR MEDICINE
Ground yourself in meditation. This is your message and your medicine. Plant the seeds of deep understanding by connecting to the cosmic energy, the giver of all life.
Here you will find true nourishment.
Sesame spice-medicine has a very aligned message and some serious magic for us at this auspicious time in our human evolution, and also in the seasonal shift we are experiencing now in the Northern Hemisphere. You see, Autumn or Fall, however you name this season, is when the Vata elements of Air and Ether are presiding and in order to remain grounded, stable, and sane, we need Sesame. And other Vata-pacifying food and lifestyle practices.
If you understand the effects of Vata and the Doshas, you will already be noticing the elevated qualities of this ethereal, mobile, light, quick, dry, cold, erratic force of nature. Vata is VAYU which means Wind. The Sanskrit word Vata literally means ‘blown’ and Vayu, ‘blower.’ So we have the blown and the blower, and this is what can knock us off our course, derange our thoughts, unsettle our hearts, and make us feel as if we are flying wildly and without direction, in an uncontrollable vaccuum of fear, anxiety, exhaustion, and confusion, especially during the Fall season.
So Sesame Medicine is true nourishment. The kind that comes from the deep and consistent practice of meditation. What a perfect Spice Oracle for this day, this season, this human life. Rather than being blown about by the winds of change, we can find ever-present, unchangeable peace and serenity by tuning in every day to the Giver of all life through a daily meditation practice.
Sesame tells us to chew our life experiences well, to grind our seeds of practice into a nourishing life habit. When you chew well on the seeds, you can properly absorb the myriad vitamins and minerals it provides. When you patiently grind sesame seeds, you make tahini, a creamy paste that is easy to digest, tastes delicious, and feels nourishing. We also produce a sublime substance with similar qualities, through our meditation practice, it is called SOMA, the nectar of bliss-awakening.
Ah, I am on a path of sharing profound wisdom this morning, bestowed on me by my aromatic spice companions. I also realized that pulling the Sesame Oracle Card, was synchronistic with the just-launched Autumn issue of Maple Magazine.My Ayurvedic article in there for the season was all about, ya you guessed it, Sesame!
In the article I talk about how tila or sesame seeds are named in the Vedas, as seeds of immortality. In Ayurveda, this refers to the rich and fortifying nutrition, and life-giving qualities of the food and oil that comes from the seed. They boost our ojas or immunity, and bless us with longevity. They are a rasayana, a sacred restorative food.
Through external oiling of the body with sesame oil, and internal nutrition of the seed as a spice, we gain double-benefits for our healthy state of being, body, mind and soul.
Sesame is loaded with calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and a high level of plant protein. How do you include this in your daily diet? Gently toast and blend the seeds with other spices and sprinkle lavishly on warming grains, soups, stews, and kitchari. Spread the paste on earthy whole-grain bread or make a dressing/sauce for your sweet roasted root veggies.
Thank you Sesame for blessing us all with your message today, and with your grounding nourishment every day. My lovely friends, I wish you the true Nourishment of the season, and steadfast mojo for your Fall meditations.
Fragrant Blessings, Your Spice Mistress, Glynnis xo
known as “the strong-scented” Katukaphalah or Lavanga Your Sanskrit names vibrate with sensual power
and good Kapha medicine,
and aromatic stories well-travelled.
From Maluku Islands within the Banda Sea,
you have come.
Clove Bud you numb my pain,
making me forget, with your sweet spicy botanica
yet uniquely pungent.
The dried flower bud,
of the tropical evergreen. Syzygium Aromaticum
My love for you is eternal,
and true is yours for me.
Ahhhhhh yes another full moon, with two occurring in this month of March. It seems like we are blessed with Blue Moons galore in this power 2018 year. As I looked in my spice apothecary this morning to adorn my rye oats with something spicy for the almost-Spring damp day, the clove jar jumped off the shelf. Usually cloves are my third, fourth or fifth choice to go in my chai or maybe in something baked. I’ve chewed on a bud for relieving toothache.
But today I gave it a closer look, you know how you cannot ignore the plea of something to be acknowledged when it makes you pay attention. And so a new love affair with an old spice is born as I put the C in LOVE for this full moon.
I BIT IN WITH CURIOSITY TO A NEW RELATIONSHIP
Giving this familiar spice another chance to show its character made me feel grateful. All those things that are ‘just there’ that we take for granted, and yet they are so mystical, generous, exotic even, when we dig deeper and smell closer and taste with more attention. Always striving for the new, the glamorous, the exciting, sometimes we overlook those solid things and their secrets to happiness.
WHAT I REDISCOVERED
Clove is a visionary spice. Its strong smell and intense flavour literally numbs the mucous membranes, it is an analgesic, quieting pain so one can focus on higher things (like feeling good). I sprinkled some on my rye oats along with ginger and turmeric and blueberries and cashews with a splash of almond milk. Ohmigosh I could not believe the fireworks that went off in my brain. This is Kapha time of year and the spicy digestive activity started right in my mouth, allowing for easy digestion. Pulling away all things sticky that I wanted unstuck. It was delicious all this good spice medicine at breakfast time. And then I bit into a whole clove bud. I closed my eyes and chewed it. A world of flavours and sensations arose in me. I forgot the cliche’s of clove and saw this spice treasure in new light.
In addition to their unique, sweet and pungent aromatic flavor, cloves are revered for their potent medicinal properties. Studies have found that the compounds in cloves display multiple health benefits, including supporting liver health, helping stabilize blood sugar levels, as well as being antimicrobial and rich in antioxidants, and improving bone health. (Jaw-dropping!).
For sure I could go on with a long list of clinical benefits but those do not sing in the heart. In Ayurveda the wisest way to receive boons from the plant and spice medicines is to include them with reverence in moderation in your daily diet, perhaps even chanting their names as you invite them into your inner world.
HOW TO GET A DAILY DOSE
OF CLOVE MEDICINE FOR
• Sprinkle into your cereal, oats or atop scrambled eggs
• Adorn your eggs-and-avo toast
• Add to your chai
• Goes great in coffee!
• Make a spice blend with clove and sprinkle lavishly
• Add to your smoothie
• Drop one into your herbal tea
May you too discover new mysteries in old relationships for this full moon and all the cycles of your life.
With CLOVE and Fragrant Blessings,
Spice Mistress Glynnis xox
You know those things you love and are attached to and have a hard time letting go of? Maybe because, well addiction or nostalgia or you just can’t imagine your life without it. Well I’m like that with chocolate. Every sworn abstinence just leads me back even stronger, pulls me closer like a crazy lover full of desire and ecstasy. And I like it. I love it. And I won’t stop because now I know I can have it as good medicine rather than guilty pleasure. Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty of pleasure, just without the guilt.
CACAO VS COCOA
Good chocolate makes all the difference. It’s certainly not like the Halloween candy bar stash that makes you high at night and very very low in the morning, or the processed hot cocoa with fake-o marshmallows on top that warms you up but leaves you wanting. So what exactly is ‘good chocolate’? Its raw and real, unprocessed, fair trade and organic.
The difference between cocoa and cacao is very simple. Cacao is the raw bean that has been fermented, cocoa is the processed cacao bean turned into powdered cocoa through heat. Cacao is raw and cocoa is what the bean is called after being heated and processed. So? The raw fermented cacao is FULL of antioxidants. Unbelievably 40 times higher than that of blueberries. Cocoa is roasted and has about 60% less antioxidant goodness, its basically been processed out.
Raw cacao is also choc-full (adorable pun intended!) of magnesium, in fact its the highest whole food source of magnesium which is a brain and heart super-food. Something I only recently found out is that raw cacao has a much higher and more bio-available (easier to digest and metabolize) calcium content than cow’s milk. Contrary to what we think we know about cacao is that it actually helps with weight loss, and stabilizing blood sugar. This makes it good for those with type 2 diabetes. It’s packed with coumarin (also found in cinnamon) and chromium which imbues it with these health-giving benefits.
The main reason we all eat this Theobroma ‘food of the Gods’ so passionately is that it makes us feel good. Cacao has an amino acid phenethylamine or PEA, the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for that feeling of LOVE as it releases the pleasure-inducing endorphins. In Ayurveda cacao is an aphrodisiac or rasayana, boosting immunity by restoring the reproductive tissues and bringing SOMA or bliss to the mind and emotional body.
A DAILY DIET OF GUILT-FREE CACAO
So how best to get this good stuff into the daily diet and reduce cravings for the not-so-good stuff? Recently at Spice Lounge, an event I offer in Vancouver, we got to know the cacao bean a little more intimately and made a spice blend Gomasala where the star was cacao. This blend with a base of sesame seeds is for sprinkling lavishly as a finishing spice on avocado-toast, scrambled eggs, popcorn with ghee, soups, roasted veggies, chicken, fish…. really it adds nutritional enhancement and divine flavour to food of all kinds.
Included in our Spice Lounge was a cacao chai that can be enjoyed as a morning elixir or late afternoon drink to reduce sugar cravings. We had it in the evening and the group were all euphoric, there was a tangible mood of luscious love in the air. This cacao chai would make the most delicious holiday drink with whipped cream or frothed almond milk and perhaps a splash of ginger liqueur
CACAO SPICE MOON CHAI
Makes 8 cups.
This heavenly cacao chai is rich in antioxidants and digestive spice medicines. Cacao is the star ingredient of this chai and can be enjoyed any time of day as its tea base is the herbal but full bodied rooibos (red bush).
Rooibos is high in antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory and known to relieve stress and nervous tension. Along with the antioxidant, mind-relaxing and pleasure-inducing benefits of cacao this is a beverage for everyone during the cooler season and the busy holiday season.
Pre-toast all the whole spices together in a skillet (this optional step releases the aromatic molecules).
Gently crack the spices in a mortar and pestle or grinder, chunky style.
In a medium sized pot add 10 cups of water with spices and slowly bring to a boil.
Add the rooibos tea. Simmer together on very low for at least an hour to infuse the spices.
Add the dried ginger and cacao powder (and nutmeg if you are using ground) and stir well. Allow to steep for another 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and allow to steep for at least another few hours. This gives a deeper, richer chai.
Strain into a big glass jar to store in refrigerator or pour into mugs ready to enjoy.
Add honey (I like it sweet and spicy so I add 1 heaped tsp per cup)
Top with optional whipped cream or frothed almond milk and a dusting of cinnamon or cayenne.
Enjoy your Cacao Spice Moon Chai and the soulful magic of this Winter Solstice season. I’d love to hear how you adorned and enjoyed your personal Cacao Chai!
YOUR SPICE ORACLE FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE SEASON
Pulled by The Spice Mistress
With Love and Fragrant blessings as always,
The Spice Mistress
The last couple of months have been a mandala of madness. A stunning trip to Iceland, the launch of the first Spice Lounge, and my teaching schedule starting up again, along with some surfacing of stuff I imagined already resolved. And then there is the enduring thread of empathy with the suffering of others in the world. But the real madness has been in the mind. There have been days of digging into the terrifying darkness while simultaneously reaching with great hope for the light. It has been nourishing and painfully heartbreaking all at once while the to-do list looms as a provocative reminder that I will never get it done.
All around me I observe my close community experiencing this too. With years of embracing Ayurvedic self-care rituals, it is comforting to know that devotion to feeling good through these practices pays off. They soothe and help navigate us through dark moments. My go-to soothers (surprise!) are the spices and aromatic plant medicines. Grinding out resistance to change, embedded habits, or anger with a family issue really works! Try grinding down big chunks of dried orange peel or powdering whole star anise or tenacious juniper berries with your mortar and pestle. It’s a workout!
The Uplifting Perfume of Hope
By sticking with the process…poof…’suddenly’ you have a workable, edible, easy-to-digest ingredient for your spice blend. Easy to swallow. And divinely aromatic. On releasing the volatile aromatic molecules you have breathed in the good medicine. It’s alchemical. The same goes for working through a difficult problem or emotion. Process allows release of anger, doubt, pain, and stinky thoughts. It releases the volatile aromatic molecules of light and allows you to inhale the uplifting perfume of hope. What a relief to release our balled-up essence and then pray. In deep meditation and prayer we can take the goodies that have come up through process and transmute them into love in the hands of the Divine.
Spice Lounge attracts those who understand the benefit of community and have caught a whiff of the sweet nourishment of process. We grind, meld, blend, laugh, share stories, recipes, and feelings as the spices, seeds, and aromatic oils wave magic over our gathering. Together we create a phenomenal spice blend to use in the month ahead and most likely work out some serious sticky stuff in a delicious way. The spice oracles encourage us with food for thought and our journey home after feels lighter, inspired, and a lot less insane.
The Wise Counsel of an Enchanting Spice Blend
My inspiration for Spice Lounge came out of both the dark and the light. The medium of aromatic botanical wisdom propels me with great passion into the kitchen to witness the magnificence of the creative process. Perhaps I will whip up a batch of something wild to share with the tribe of seekers who love the wise counsel of an enchanting spice blend and the simple therapy of a sweet ‘n spicy chai.
Cheeky earth-red seeds ripen into becoming. Bird-beaked in form, colour dangerous. Why discover you now? With so much prickly pain outside this primal pod. Are you ready to share your secrets?
This Summer I became obsessed with Annatto seeds as I recalled a certain soup. Late Summer corn. Recipe by my best friend Myra Kornfeld in her first cookbook, “The Voluptuous Vegan”
It was sooooo VOLUPTUOUS.
Roasted corn with a sexy sofrito infused with the hue of this prehistoric-looking spice.
I made it again and again, the colours, flavours, and scent memories of friends gathered.
After I moved from New York and then Seattle, those feasts with best friends over the border became like rubies, precious and rare. Until one trip to the spice market where I rediscovered this jewel. Oh the happiness. Infusing oils, sauces, soups and ecstatic spice blends. I cannot even tell you how these beauties will make you feel.
When I step into my kitchen knowing they are there, I feel like a traveller, never lonely, free to go off on some adventure or another deep into my world of colours, aromas, and wild imaginings.
While playing with my new spice friends in a whole new way I created this tangy spice masala and I’m using it like crazy on my Late Summer corn on the cob with plenty ghee. Definitely a blend for adding to veggies like cauliflower and potatoes, as well as to various types of white fish. Its citrusy, slightly sweet and a little bit of spicy.
ANNATTO LEMON ZEST RUB
2 TBSP Annatto seeds Zest of 2 medium lemons 3 TBSP Coriander seeds 1 TBSP Whole Black pepper 1 tsp salt
Toast the coriander and black pepper and grind to a rough consistency. Grind the annatto seeds until roughly powdered. Zest lemon skins. Add salt and meld all together.
Use as an aromatic rub directly on corn, tofu, poultry, fish, root veggies.I hope you enjoy making this rub, so easy and fresh and a really really great way to enjoy the Summers corn bounty!
NOTE: Annatto lends a deep crimson colour to dishes either as an infused oil, rub or marinade traditionally for meat and fish but is definitely a gorgeous rub. The seed’s rich pigment infuses oils and vinegars with its golden-red hue imparting not only colour but a subtle citrus flavour to foods. Kitchens around the world use annatto to add its yellow-red colour to foods. The peppery, citrusy and earthy flavour of annatto, best ground raw or infused whole into oils, enhances and pairs well with most spices especially coriander, lemon/orange zest, black pepper, cumin, ginger, and cocoa.
As an Ayurvedic spice benefit, annatto assists liver and kidney function and strengthens bone tissue.
MYTH, MAGIC, & SACRED MEDICINE
I love that this stunningly vibrant seed was originally used as a ceremonial pigment and that nearly all Mayan scriptures were written in its red-staining ink. The Mayans and Aztecs considered this juice sacred and revered it as a symbol for blood in their rituals. These early civilizations went on to use annatto in foods ranging from spicy stews to powerful ritual chocolate drinks. Due to its rich hue, annatto was also valued as a pigment for war paint and is still used for colour in cosmetics (mostly lipstick), food and fabric dye.
Known as an aphrodisiac for women, annatto is imbued with the fire element and provokes desire. Mmmmm I must say just cooking with this amazing spice makes me feel totally luscious. So satisfying. With all this and its many health benefits, I implore you my darlings to go find some and try it.
Love and Fragrant Blessings, Glynnis, Your Spice Mistress xox