All our favorite summer produce is at the farmers markets now! Peaches, plums, vine ripened tomatoes, chiles…they all seem to arrive at the same time. August is the month of plenty for seasonal eaters. Almost all of the time, all my extra dollars are swayed toward the richest sweetest market produce. Which means I overindulge in super sweet tomatoes and tree fruits. I try to tell myself that a 25 lb box of peaches is completely unreasonable, but I just can’t resist. This month can really be full of diverse unrestrained meals using nothing but peak fresh produce. August is typically the hottest month of the year for us. Eating lots of fresh salads, herbs, and spicy foods can help keep your body cool and refreshed.
This is my first year taking growing culinary herbs for restaurants seriously, and because my process was not perfectly smooth and timely at the beginning of the season, I am just now seeing the culinary garden fill out. hopefully if you grow culinary herbs you have had an overabundance for months now… I wish I had a photo for you, but I forgot to take one when I was on the farm on Tuesday. It felt so suspenseful this whole season to continually wait for some herbs like basil to gain a sense of sprightliness. While others, like cilantro and dill went to flower before I could get many weeks of cuttings early in the spring from them. But this is why gardening is such a fascinating game…it takes many years of experience to develop the knowledge and wisdom to make the most of the space and growing season.
I do have a few picture of my medicinal garden, these pictures were taken mid-day in the sun, so they have that not so glamorous washed out look to them. Each year I try to rein in my wild spirit a little bit. This year things look slightly less like a wild prairie garden than last year, but not much less. I have very sandy soil that needs many more years of soil building, so I primarily grow roots and flowers that can handle nutrient poor dry conditions in the summer. Each year fertility gets better and my shrub/tree layer is starting to establish itself. I cannot express how happy I am out in my garden when I notice that hundreds of thousands of insect and birds are super stoked about the ecosystem I am creating.
I have been thinking about how to make a unique iced tea for a while. I do not have a palate for strong sweet iced teas. But I know a lot of people who find comfort and joy in sitting back on a hot summer day and sipping sweet tea. Drinking sweetened black tea in the afternoon will keep the body awake when the thick heat can seem to suck the life right out of you. This blend has a small amount of licorice root in it for subtle sweetness, but if you want the real deal, you will have to add a spoonful of honey or other sweetener after the tea is steeped to give it the sweet punch you are craving. Sweeten the tea before you chill it so that the sugar is dissolved completely.
Shiso and a touch of mint were added to this blend for a unique touch. I grew the shiso on Vashon Island and have been experimenting with it in teas lately, this blend is the first time I have had others try it. The shiso is very subtle but adds a nice aroma and richness to the overall flavor. I grow three types of shiso: Frilly Red, Green, and a variegated variety. I used a blend of these three types in this blend. Shiso has a sort of rich flavor that has notes of cinnamon, peppermint, anise, and basil. If you are not sure what shiso is or tastes like, it is that frilly herb commonly served as a garnish with sushi. One of the many therapeutic aspects of shiso is that it helps protect against food poisoning and allergic reactions.
This tea-less chai has a rich aroma of malt and chocolate with a robust spicy flavor. Drinking small cups of iced chai is one of my favorite summer drinks to share with my friends. I highly recommend making a concentrate of half or all of the package and keep it in the fridge. Add milk when you are ready to serve. For iced chai I typically use 3/4 concentrate and 1/4 milk. Cool milk is much thicker than hot milk, so you definitely can get away with using less.
Chai can be a great way to cool down, especially if brewed hot, strong, and spicy. Consuming spicy foods and drinks encourages your body to sweat, thus lowering body temperature. Drinking spicy chai both in the coolest and hottest parts of the year strongly supports thermoregulation.
The full spectrum flavor comes from adding chaga mushrooms and cacao shells to a basic chai spice recipe of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, and black pepper. It is hard to find ingredients to replace black tea in a chai blend. The combination of chaga and cacao shells definitely does not mimic tea flavor but replaces it with another kind of depth and aroma.
As a contraindication note: Kava is not recommended for use during pregnancy or nursing, or if you have acute liver disease.
Chillaxin is a fun blend that I pretty much only make and sell in the summer. This blend is best steeped in room temp or cold water. I usually steep anything with kava in it in the fridge overnight. In Hawaii and throughout Polynesia, kava is extracted in cool water. I most often take my queues about how to use herbs from the places where the herbs are native.
Kava has a bad reputation on the internet due to lack of education and awareness about the plant. It is a really good therapy for tense skeletal muscles. If you hold your anxiety in your muscles kava can really help loosen you up.
I have heard many many stories of people in Hawaii and Polynesia over indulging in cups of strong Kava and losing their ability to stand up or even move their lips to talk. I am talking about people who drink over 20 cups of strong kava in an evening. Small amounts of kava can be great for calming stressed muscles without effecting cognitive function. Kava has a taste and mouth feel that can be uncomfortable for some drinkers. Basically, it slightly numbs the tongue and lips, this sensation lasts for only a few minutes after drinking a cup. Drinking straight kava at a kava bar is like drinking mouth numbing mud. It doesn’t taste great, but it has been used for many centuries throughout the pacific islands for relaxation.
The kava in Chillaxin is blended with other herbs to dilute the flavor and sensation of the kava. Lemongrass provides a nice aromatic lemony flavor. When steeped in cool water lemongrass tastes almost sweet and floral, two tones that get eliminated when steeped in hot water. Oats are highly nourishing and support relaxation. Adding dried rose hips and blackberries gives this blend extra vitamins, a little sweetness, and a tartness that balances the blend.