Are You Ready for Winter? Part 3.
Antioxidants are powerful plant compounds that preserve our health. Vitamin C is perhaps the most famous antioxidant, especially when it comes to winter miseries.
Our ancestors didn't have a global food exchange. And they didn't take supplements. The lack of fresh plants in the winter could mean fewer antioxidants and depressed immunity. So they found many ways to preserve them. Here are mine.
My main sources of antioxidants during the winter are berries, preserved in many ways, greens, frozen and as pestos and vinegars, plus fermented foods.
Berries, with their red, black, blue, and purple colors, are a prime source of antioxidants.
* Pemmican — a mix of meat, fat, and berries — was the favored preservative means of many native Americans.
* Freezing is the modern preservative. And it captures the vitamins at their peak, as opposed to fresh, which is picked too green to ever develop full vitamin richness.
* Jam is the sweetest way of keeping antioxidants. With the exception of vitamin C, antioxidants are actually increased by cooking.
* Syrups of berries preserve vitamins, too. Make a pint of infusion of any dried berry — such as elder, schisandra, amla, sumac, goji, aronia. Decoct it down to one cup or less. Add one-half cup honey and boil briefly. Pour into a hot, well-washed bottle. Refrigerate when cool.
* Oxymels — mixes of honey and vinegar — also preserve the vitamins in berries and green plants.
* Vinegar brings minerals to us and holds onto antioxidants for us. I adore hawthorn vinegar and often eat the squishy haws left over after the vinegar is gone.
* Salt is a very old method of preserving food. I harvest fresh schisandra berries and layer them with salt. This first gives me a delicious salty, vitamin-rich liquid, then, eventually, preserved berries which I use as a condiment.
Greens are an important winter source of cold and flu preventing antioxidants.
* Freeze cooked greens every time you eat them in the summer and your winter will be well supplied. I cook amaranth, lamb's quarter, chard, kale, turnip greens, collards, beet greens for at least an hour in an inch of water. When cool, I pack four servings in a container and freeze.
* Pestos are so easy to make and use. They preserve lots of antioxidants. My stash of pestos for winter health includes: basil, dandelion, curly/yellow dock leaf, parsley, shiso, chickweed, garlic scape, ground ivy, and cannabis.
* Vinegar is my go-to for preserving super-rich antioxidant mints. It's so hard to choose between vinegars of thyme, rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, bergamot, oregano, shiso, field mint, peppermint, and sage. I also love pine needle vinegar, which abounds in vitamin C.
* Oxymels of garlic, leek tops, lavender flowers, ginger, and berries provide lots of antioxidants to nourish my immunity in the cold, dark days.
Fermenting actually creates vitamins. Isn't that amazing? Sauerkraut has ten times more vitamin C than the cabbage it is made with. Lacto-fermentation can preserve just about anything and our ancestors benefitted from their "pickles" and "relishes" — which were not brined as they now are commercially. It's not too late to put up a few quarts of fermented cabbage — or any other vegetables or fruits you want to ferment — to bubble up your winter health.