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  1. Whatever you celebrate, the cold, dark nights of winter are a great time to gather with friends to eat, drink and be merry. Wassailing is an ancient, Saxon (or probably earlier) custom that was celebrated on Twelth Night when the feudal Lords would give their "serfs" gifts of food and drink, in exchange for goodwill. The word 'wassail' comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase 'waes hael', which means 'good health'. Originally, the wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, spices and sugar. There are many recipe variations, but I like the one here

  2. Whilst some boats have a small bath, here on the Herb Boat I just have a shower. A bath is a rare treat provided by landlubber friends. I have a number of such friends here in West Yorkshire, having spent several years here at the University of Bradford, both studying and working, and have been enjoying regular soaks which have eased my achey, arthriticcy old bones a treat. It has also given me a chance to fully test the new range of Herb Boat Bath Salts; blends of organic salts, essential oils, herbs and flowers to elevate your bath time to spa like heaven. And of course, all natural ingredients and no nasty parabens and the like.


  3. Well, I gave myself a bit of a stern "talking to" last week ... about my packaging, as I use far too much plastic. Whilst my carrier bags are biodegradeable, none of the packaging I use for the herbs and spices is.

    So, over the next few months I am going to experiment with some new packaging types, all of which will be fully recyclable, re-usable and / or biodegradeable. I want to be sure that the new packaging maintains the quality of my herbs and spices and I would value any feedback from you lovely people on whether the packaging is "user friendly". 

    I am also gradually increasing the number of Certified Organic and Fair Trade products. Whilst many of the herbs and spices I sell are grown using organic methods, not all are "Certified Organic", which I know is important for many of you. Latest organic additions are Marjoram, Bay Leaves, Poppy Seeds.


    New labelling, with green hearts, allows you to see which herbs and spice are Certified Organic at a glance and I will be adding more as I source more top quality Certified Organic produce. Don't forget my stock is non-irradiated and GMO free.

    Meanwhile, I am looking forward to trading at the Saltaire Festival this weekend 17th to 20th September 



  4. But you can win yourself some free spices or joss sticks .... Head over to The Herb Boat's Facebook Page 

    and either LIKE the page or SHARE the GIVE AWAY status to be in with a chance to win a selection of my "Taste The World" Spice Blends or a selection of Satya Incense Sticks






    If you are not in, you can't win ... watch out for me trading in Shipley over the next few days 

    TTFN Bunny

  5. There are many ways to enjoy the beneficial aspects of herbs and spices. You can cook with them, infuse them, inhale them, burn and smoke them, make extracts, oils, lotions, potions and salves, bathe in them, strew them  ... the list is endless.

    Here on The Herb Boat, I have had a long history of smoking one of the most addictive herbs known to humanity, Tobacco, Nicotiana tabacca. Once commonly used medicinally as a relaxant, sedative and expectorant, it has been widely available for centuries as tobacco, tinctures and snuff.  When the truly addictive nature of nicotine was understood, along with the it's toxic, carcenogenic properties, particularly when smoked, it's medicinal use declined, though it is still widely commercially available as tobacco for smoking and chewing, and snuff. Many people cannot understand why anyone would choose to smoke, and many smokers battle with their addiction.

    Whilst the long term detrimental health effects are now well known, the highly addictive nature of this herb makes it a habit that is hard to kick. Smoking is linked to many cancers, not just those of the lungs, gum disease, premature ageing, poor circulation and inevitable damage to the delicate membranes of the lungs. This was brought home to me in a frightening way recently when a chest infection made my annoying little "smoker's cough"  worse, and worse and eventually culminated in me being admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties last week. 

    I'm now home, and feeling much better ... and yes, I have stopped finally smoking .....  but I have been diagnosed with COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. I am still learning about what this will mean in the long term, but for now just getting out of bed results in wheezing and coughing. So I have been taking things easy and using a soothing blend of herbs as an inhalation, to help ease my wheeziness and soothe my bruised lungs.

    Inhaling steam alone has long been used to help relieve coughs, breathing difficulties and congested sinuses. The addition of some herbs, spices and / or essential oils can enhance the soothing effect of the steam.


    My choice of herbs is;

    Sage, known to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties,

    Eucalyptus for it's powerful anti-bacterial, anti septic, astringent, antispasmodic , analgesic (pain killing) and expectorant properties,

    Rosemary for it's soothing, anti-inflammatory properties,

    Lavender for it's calming, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties,

    Peppermint known to be an expectorant and decongestant

    And a sprinkle of Orange Peel which provides support against respiratory distress, exerts a lung cleansing activity, breaks down and expels congestion (phlegm). It also contains high levels of histamine and antioxidants, which may help in relieving various respiratory complications like bronchitis, cold, flu.

    So I place the herbs in a deep bowl, and add water that has just cooled from boiling

    inhale2 inhale4


    Then find a large towel and form a tent over your head and the bowl, keeping a good 30cm away from the bowl, and inhale the steam for 5 to 10 minutes. If at any point you feel any discomfort, just pop your head out of the tent.


    Not only does the steam moisten and open congested air passages, it also raises skin temperature causing blood vessels to dilate and thus improves blood circulation. So you will also benefit from a mini-facial. Be gentle with your facial skin after the inhalation, splashing it with cold water and patting it dry.

    Other herbs, spices and essential oils to try inhaling for coughs, colds and sinus problems are Bay, Cloves, Cardamom, Tea Tree, Myrrh, Basil and Pine.

    Obviously, if you are pregnant, breast feeding, taking any medication or if your symptoms are persistent and severe, you should always consult a qualified practitioner.

    And obviously, if you are a smoker, you should get as much help, love and support as possible to help you stop.

    Keep trying and say NO to Nick O'Teen




  6. I sell a wide range of medicinal and culinary herb plants, though stocks become low as the summer progresses (summer?? what summer!). One of my favorite herbs, for it's almost mandala type beauty, it's ability to survive in the most hostile situations and thrive on neglect is the Common Houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum. Also known as Hen and Chicks, or Jupiter's Beard, it's name literally translates as "Forever Living on a Roof". The only way to kill this hardy gem is by giving it too much water, soil and attention.

    Records of Sempervivum go back 2,000 years, when it was said to have been given to Jupiter, or Zeus, to protect houses from fire and lightening strikes. It is also associated with Thor, and has a long history of magical use to protect from witches, hexes and witchcraft.

    I have been told it is a traditional boater's plant, but can't find any information to back this up. It's ability to survive the wild temperature variations on a boat roof, it's magical reputation for warding off witches, protecting from fire,storms and lightening and bringing prosperity, combined with it's value medicinally, do make it a great choice for a boat roof garden. King Charlemagne ordered that it should be grown on every house roof as protection against fire and lightening.


    I also have a nerdy passion for all it's many cultivars, especially the cobweb varieties.


    People often come to my stall and say .... "but that is not a herb!!!" ........  but Sempervivums have been used in herbal medicine for centuries for their cooling, astringent, anti-inflammatory properties.  Bruised leaves or juice can be applied to minor scalds and burns, impetigo, mouth ulcers, ringworm, nettle stings and insect bites for almost instant relief. A gargle made from the juice, or an infusion of the leaves with honey, is said to help sore throats, ulcers and oral thrush. A crushed leaf, taped to a corn or wart with a plaster is said to help remove them.

    Houseleeks have also been used internally, usually as an infusion, for period pains, gout, hearing problems, dysentry and intestinal worms. Current research suggests it has anti-oxident and liver protection properties. It has no known reactions with medicines or side effects, apart from being a purgative if large quantities of undiluted juice are drunk .... given it's bitter, salty taste, that is highly unlikely to happen!



  7. Tansy grows prolifically here in Yorkshire on the banks of the Aire and Calder navigation. It is an attractive, upright, perennial herb, with aromatic feathery foliage and bright yellow button flowers that bees love. It makes a great garden plant, though can be invasive, and is tolerant of most soils. Plant a patch near your back door to discourage flies.


    Tansy was cultivated by the ancient Greeks, and appears in early monastic medicinal herb gardens. Historically, it was used for intestinal worms, but it is seldom used medicinally now due to it's toxicity from it's high thujone content. It should not be taken internally without the supervision of an experienced herbalist, particularly if you are pregnant.

    Tansy has a pungent, bitter aroma and was used as a "strewing herb" in the medieval period, strewn on the floor and in beds as an insect repellent. It was also used in embalming and burnt as incense. It is increasingly being used as a biological pesticide, as a companion plant. It is also a useful natural yellow dye plant.

    Here on the Herb Boat I use Tansy in my Moth Repellent Sachets and stock the dried herb for use in incense mixes.



  8. I have only ever dropped two of the bulk bags of herbs and spices whilst bagging and labelling .... a huge bag of Turmeric .... (there is still a general yellowness from that on the Herb Boat) ... and yesterday I dropped a bag of my new Piri Piri spice mix ... it went everywhere and by the time I had finished cleaning it up my lips and eyes were tingling .... because it is HOT .... SERIOUSLY HOT

    This is part of my "Taste the World" exotic spice range; a collection of spice blends from around the world. These are great for using in recipes, to mix with oil for a marinade, or rub dry into meat for the barbeque or just to liven up a one of your normal dinners .... beans on toast and popcorn need never be the same again.

    Talking of popcorn, it seems to be enjoying a comeback, with all sorts of flavours appearing on the supermarket shelves .... but it is so cheap, quick and easy, and such fun to make yourself, why not try this recipe for Sweet and Spicy Togarashi Popcorn. It uses my Togarashi Spice, also known as Japanese 7 Spice, a mix of sesame seeds, chilli, orange peel and seaweed, with a lovely nutty, aromatic, hot taste. You don't need much. And if you don't fancy the sweet / spicey mix, leave out the honey and try adding some melted garlic butter



    You will need 

    • about 2oz popcorn kernels
    • 1 tbs olive oil
    • 2 tbs butter
    • 1 tbs honey
    • 1 tsp Togarashi Spice

    Place the oil in a large lidded saucepan and heat over a high heat. Stir in the popcorn kernels and cover. Leave to cook for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan every now and then. As the popping dies down, remove from heat. 

    Melt the butter in a small pan and add the honey, mix well.

    Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and immediately add the butter, honey and Togarashi, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Add more butter, honey or spice to adjust taste. Try with 2 cloves of garlic instead of the honey .... TASTE-TASTIC 



  9. One of the most common plants I saw growing wild on my recent trip to the Faroe Islands was Angelica. Whether it survived the ice age here, as it did in Iceland, I am not yet sure. But there is evidence that it was harvested by the Vikings on Iceland and used for trade. Angelica was so valuable during the medieval period in Iceland that there was a specific law to prevent Angelica theft in the first law book.

    The whole plant has been used medicinally for centuries across the world, as an expectorant and for stomach upsets, and there is some evidence that it acts as a mild stimulant. Historically, it was held in high esteem as a cure for all ills, blood purification and to ward off the plague. The flavour of Angelica is slightly musky and it has a long history of being used to flavour alcohols and liqueurs, being a key ingedient in Vermouth and Gin. 


    This picture shows Angelica growing wild in Torshovan, behind the other ubiquitous wild plant, Marsh Marigolds (or King cups ... Caltha palustris). Marsh marigolds have been used medicinally, to cure warts and fits, and the leaves can be eaten like spinach, but the whole plant is an irritant and best avoided. It was used historically in May Day festivals.

    The other surprise herb for me on the Faroes was Sweet Cicely, with its dainty, fresh green leaves and sweet smelling flowers. The whole plant is edible; the leaves are good in salads, with a fresh aniseedy / liquorice flavour, the roots can be used like parsnips, it is a good natural sweetener and combines especially well with rhubarb. Gerard, agreeing with Culpeper on it's value for lifting the spirits, states that the roots, boiled and dressed with oil and vinegar are   “…very good for old people that are dull and without courage; it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth their lust and strength.” It is a key ingredient in Chartreuse liqueur.

    Medicinally, it was, like Angelica, used as a plague herb. It has expectorant properties and is a mildly stimulating anti-spasmodic. Tea made from the leaves has been used to relieve period pains. The roots anti-septic properties, in a decoction, have been used for snake bites and as a poultice on septic wounds. the sweet smelling seeds can be chewed and were ground and added to beeswax polish for their perfume.





  10. Here in Yorkshire the elderflowers are just right to gather for drying or making cordial, champagne, syrup ... whatever. In fact now is a great time for harvesting and drying any cultivated and wild herbs. You will find foraging courses being offered everywhere now to help you identify wild plants, and be sure not to overpick or uproot the plants (against the law!) ... and obviously avoid endangered species on the protected list.

    The simplest way to dry elderflowers, and save them for winter when their anti-viral and anti-inflamatory properties are useful to help with colds, flu, sinus infections and winter aches and pains, is to pick the flower heads and shake off any beasties and bugs, and lay them on a sheet of cardboard. Place the cardboard in a warm, dry, shady place with good ventilation and leave until the creamy flowers are dry and can be rubbed easily from their stems. they can then be stored in airtight containers for use in teas, wines, cordials etc all year round.

    Many recipes for elderflower cordial contain citric acid as a preservative ... this can help preserve your cordial but some people have concerns about the way it is manufactured ... if you don't want to use it, add a couple more lemons and try freezing the cordial.

    There are hundreds of recipes online ... here is one I use

    30 elderflower heads

    1 litre water

    1kg sugar

    2 or 3 lemons (or add a lime or some orange)

    30g citric acid

    Shake any beasties and insects off the flowerheads and place in a large pan or bowl with sliced lemons. Boil the water with the sugar and citric acid, if using, until dissolved. Allow to cool slightly and then pour over the elderflowers and lemons, cover with a clean tea towel or similar and leave to infuse for 3-4 days in the fridge. Strain through muslin and seal in sterilised bottles. 

    Try adding a lime or an orange for a different flavour.


    Elderflowers can also be added to vodka or gin and left to infuse for a few days. Elderflower syrup is great added to ice cream and with gooseberries.

    If you miss the chance to pick and dry your own, you can always buy some dried ones from me 



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