Our family shares this weekly (when we're organized) tradition with another family. It's often complete chaos as we juggle dinner prep and spouses' work schedules and kids' appetites and bedtimes and block forts being built under the chefs' feet, and almost always end up eating in shifts so that the grownups can (maybe) talk. We have this dreamy notion that someday teenagers will skulk off to a basement hangout while we have hours and hours to drink wine and finish conversations. For now we're just starting them, and it usually feels like enough.
There is nothing, nothing like a nature walk filled with small creatures to nourish my soul. Corolla supplied a triple helping - first a short stroll down the CAMA Sound boardwalk, complete with hundreds of dragonflies, amazing spiders, husks of damselfly nymphs, tree frogs, and more. Then a longer walk with my children along the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve Access Trail, which granted us more peeks at similar creatures. A few days later I returned on my own for a two-hour solo hike through the maritime forest there. All along the way, I filled my eyes, my heart, and my camera.
My midwife gave me a sample of a "pregnancy tonic" tea - enough to make 2 gallons - and I made my second batch last night. For the last batch I just brewed the basic tea, which contains alfalfa, oat grass, red raspberry leaves, and stinging nettle. You boil 2 quarts of water and steep 1 cup of the tea in that until the pot is cold (or, if you're me, overnight), then either drink it straight, or dilute it. I diluted to 1 gallon and kept it in the fridge. The goal is to drink a quart a day, which is something like eating four servings of leafy greens and contains the RDA of iron, vitamin C, and calcium, in addition to lots of other good stuff.
One basic recipe for the tea would be:
4 parts dried red raspberry leaf
2 parts dried nettles
2 parts dried alfalfa
4 parts dried oat straw
Red raspberry leaf contains large amounts of vitamins C and E, as well as A and B complex. Vitamin A boosts the immune system and promotes healthy fetal skin and bone development. Vitamin E is good for circulation. Phosphorus and potassium are present (and help prevent leg cramps), as well as an easy-to-absorb form of calcium, which is necessary for bone health in the mother and fetus and also plays a key role in pain mediation during birth. An alkaloid present in RRL is responsible for toning the smooth muscle of the uterus, preparing it for labor and birth, preventing hemmorrhage, and helping it to return to its original size afterward (it is also good for uterine tone to control menstrual flow). The minerals in RRL may aid the mother's recovery from birth and her milk production.
Alfalfa contains proteins, vitamins K and C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and chlorophyll. It may help to prevent anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. Vit K is important for coagulation. Chlorophyll's benefits are not yet completely understood, but foods containing chlorophyll may help to prevent damage to DNA caused by carcinogens.
Oat straw contains calcium and magnesium, and has traditionally been used to promote central nervous system health (it can treat insomnia, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, and possibly serve as an aphrodisiac), as well as to encourage healthy bones, skin, hair, and nails. Its other principle constituents includ B vitamins and iron.
Stinging nettle is also a good source of many vitamins and minerals, including carotene and vitamin C, for both of which it rivals spinach as a source. As such, it's helpful in preventing anemia.
That first batch was fine - tasted pretty much like normal red raspberry leaf tea, but a touch greener, probably from the alfalfa. RRL tea generally tastes like a weak, green version of a cheap black tea. Not bad, certainly fine for iced tea. The tea was a pale golden-green color. Not unappetizing (I had worried it would look like spinach water) but not terribly beautiful, either. Good with honey, which I forgot is bitchin' hard to mix into cold tea. Hard to make yourself want a whole quart of it every day, though.
For batch #2 I headed down to Ellwood Thompson's - my local organic market - and picked up some bulk herbs, including a little dried peppermint and some rosehips. I thought they'd jazz it up a little, and the rosehips would add some color and a little more Vit C, too. If you've never used rosehips before, think of Red Zinger tea, which gets most of its color, scent, and flavor from rosehips. Set up the pot last night and strained it this morning. I heated some water in an old congealed bottle of honey and dumped it in while diluting. Voila - used up the old honey, pre-sweetened the tea (how very Southern of me), and I won't have to deal with cold honey + cold tea glop.
The result is yummy, a slightly richer blend with a nicer color, thanks to the rosehips. I may have made it a touch too sweet, but not so sweet that I can't drink it, and it's worth it not to have to stir and stir and stir the honey each time.