December is one month of the year when I like to talk about something other than direct hands-on gardening. Seasonal houseplants such as amaryllis, azalea, Christmas cactus and poinsettia will have to play second fiddle.
Occasionally I think I came out of the womb with a guitar in one hand, a packet of seeds in the other and a cookbook on my toes. Now, many years later, there’s a thin person inside me struggling to get out. I can usually sedate him with one or two slices of cranberry tea loaf and I love it. Is that a hint there’s a recipe forthcoming?
Some of my Grainews readers may recall a song with words that go something like this: Tea for two and two for tea, me for you and you for me, can’t you see how happy we would be. Well, at the very least, it’s my cue to brew a big pot of tea, but first I’ll plug in the kettle.
…whether green, black or white are made with leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Although only hardy in tropical mountain valley regions, this attractive evergreen shrub with leathery leaves and nodding white fragrant flowers makes a beautiful, interesting indoor and greenhouse plant.
Once fresh leaves are picked, the distinctive taste and colour of resulting brew is determined according to length of time leaves are exposed to air. All Camellia sinensis leaves contain natural flavonoid antioxidants. Regardless of the brand you drink, research has shown that regular tea consumption contributes to maintenance of good health and longevity.
How many women and men do you know in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have been lifelong tea drinkers? While I’ve not done any survey, I know of plenty such seniors whose day is not complete unless they’ve had their cup o’ tea or two. Camellia sinensis does not include herbal teas, since the latter come from other plant sources and have different properties.
RECIPES CAN BE MODIFIED
A recipe is a guide, and you can stray off and find your own way. Maybe you have local ingredients you’d like to add or you just like to experiment to create things more to your liking. Many experienced cooks and bakers know what I mean by that. Here are a few examples that Sophie Ostopowich and I considered.
When making cranberry tea loaf, Sophie substituted her own homemade Nanking cherry juice in place of cranberry cocktail and only used one cup of sugar.
Personally, I like replacing one or two cups of all-purpose white flour with one or two cups of Hamilton’s barley flour, which is milled from barley grown near Olds, Alta. Eventually, you might want to use barley flour entirely in place of white.
In Pakistan, barley is often referred to as “medicine for the heart” and praised for benefiting the plumbing (urinary) system, too. But remember, barley is most famous as a great tool against constipation by keeping the intestinal tract squeaky clean. Barley may also help reduce any tendency toward hemorrhoids and help normalize blood cholesterol.
Sophie says next time she’ll use only two tea bags instead of four, as she prefers a lighter coloured loaf. For myself however, I did not find it too dark using four tea bags. In the end, we agreed the loaves look very Christmasy, what with the cranberries and walnuts.
HOW TO MAKE CRANBERRY TEA LOAF
Ingredients are as follows:
300 ml (1- cups) water
50 ml ( cup) cranberry juice cocktail
4 tea bags
750 ml (3 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (one teaspoon) baking soda
2 ml ( teaspoon) salt
300 ml (1- cups) granulated sugar
50 ml ( cup) butter or margarine
250 ml (1 cup) chopped cranberries
250 ml (1 cup) chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease a two-litre loaf pan (9x5x3 inches). In a small saucepan bring water and cranberry juice to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Cover and brew five minutes, then remove tea bags. Squeeze out excess tea from bags, then cool the liquid.
In a bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt, then set aside. Cream butter or margarine with sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy (about three minutes). Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Stir in cooled tea brew. Gradually work in flour mixture. Blend only until flour is mixed in. Lastly, mix in cranberries and walnuts or pecans. Turn into prepared loaf pan and bake one hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from its pan and cool further.
Cranberry tea loaf freezes beautifully and can be sliced even when frozen with a serrated-edge knife. Personally, I found one generous-size piece to be quite filling.
CAN ONIONS COLLECT FLU VIRUS?
You be the judge! Stories and remedies still abound, such as the ancient practice of placing sliced onions on a dish in every room. The belief held was that raw onions absorb any flu virus present in the air, thus protecting household members from coming down with influenza. There’s no scientific evidence to support this old wives’ tale that dates back to the 1500s. Its current status remains mostly unproven, but can become a great conversation piece over a cup of tea.
Long before germs were discovered, there was a prevalent theory since early times that contagious diseases were spread by miasma, or bad noxious air. It was believed that onions had absorbent qualities that could cleanse the atmosphere by trapping harmful odours and prevent contagion.
Freshly peeled onions daily replaced old ones from the day before. The latter were thought to have absorbed most or all of the germ-laden elements in the atmosphere and discarded. As well, raw onion poultices were often used for drawing out infection on skin and wounds.
Regardless of existing doubts in today’s world, many folks are still willing to give onions a whirl and come up with their own conclusion. Remember, it’s as simple as placing a peeled onion in a bowl throughout every room and replacing it daily.
This may, or may not help you and your loved ones from getting sick. If you do get the flu, hopefully it’s just a mild case and that’s so much better than the serious kind. What have you to lose? Just a sack of onions.
Here’s a gardening tip from Frieda Deller at Manning, Alta. “I learned from my mother not to hill onions, but rather to remove soil and just leave onion roots sitting in the ground and they will grow bigger.”
AN ONION TRAVELS WITH ME
In my Rav 4 I keep an onion and a head of raw garlic. Onions still remind me of my days when I, Ted was a radio DJ, spinning 78s, 45s, LPs and tape recorded music. One country song in particular I played a lot was: “You’ve Been Eating Onions.”
My closing takes me back a quarter of a century. Away back then, a song I wrote and sang with a buddy Jack called “Happy New Year All” was aired coast to coast to coast on CBC Radio’s program “As It Happens.” I presume it was placed somewhere in their archives never to be aired again. I’ve not heard it since.
This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. Today, I am thankful for air to breathe, the seasons, sunshine, moonlight, stars, darkness, real friends and my Grainews readers. I am thankful that Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season. I do not have to purchase these with money. They are free gifts and I treasure them. My e-mail address is [email protected]