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Top 4 Bitter Herbs (and Their Uses)- Tuesday, September 19, 2017

dandelion in grass

Bitter has a bad rep, and that’s no surprise to us. Bitter people are jealous, angry, and mean, while sweet people are likeable, kind, and charming. There is a running assumption that anything bitter is soured, in bad taste, and potentially rotten. But what about the good side of bitter? Is there such a thing? Yes.

Consider this: coffee is bitter. Beer is bitter. Cocoa (the main ingredient in chocolate) is bitter. And some of your favorite mixed drinks probably have bitters in them.

Bitter has a bad rep, but it is the very essence of bitterness that gives other flavors strength. When you consider a great meal or a delicious drink, does it only have one flavor note? Probably not. That’s the beauty of cooking and culinary adventures—the blending of flavors from sweet to salty to bitter to savory creates a harmony for your taste buds. It is the opposition of flavors that create intrigue, leaving you wanting more. And that’s why we’re here. Today, we are going to adventure into our top 4 bitter herbs and how useful they are: to your health, your culinary adventures, and, most importantly, to your palate.

1. Chamomile 

Chamomile is more than just a beautiful flower. It’s also a good companion plant that is said to revive failing plants if planted near them.  Another practical use for the plant is to create an infusion spray that can be used on seedlings to prevent damping off. Or you can speed up the decomposition rate of your compost pile by adding a few chamomile leaves in with the mix.

It has a lot of benefits for you, too.

Chamomile Can Improve Your Health

Chamomile is a bitter nervine herb that is known for its calming effects. Chamomile flowers are used as medicinal herb, cosmetic agent, herbal tea, aromatherapy ingredient.

As antispasmodic, it can be used to relieve stomachache and gas pain, menstrual cramps, indigestion, diarrhea and ulcer. It is also a very good laxative. As nervine, it is slightly sedative and can be used to induce sleep and dull pain. It also helps to alleviate anxiety and depression, dyspepsia, flatulence, and other stomach ailments. It is used as a mild antiseptic, and is also a good appetite restorer which makes it popular with cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy.

Chamomile Can “Spice” up Your Cooking

While most chamomile is consumed in teas, it is also found in some desserts, like cake. An organic gastronomical treat, you can eat chamomile flowers fresh by tossing some into your salad or your favorite lemonade.

Crushing the dried flower heads or mashing the fresh flower heads of chamomile can bring your oatmeal to the next level. Here are some other things you can do with chamomile or chamomile-infused simple syrup:

  • Infuse it in jams and spreads.
  • Add flavor notes in a fruit-crisp topping.
  • Add to sorbet bases or ice cream.
  • Infuse your favorite lemonade or tea.

Flavorful Tip: Chamomile works best with other fruits that grow during the same season, which is late May through mid-July.

Where Can I Get Chamomile?

Gather the leaves and flowers anytime during the summer and dry them for later use or use fresh, or you can buy organic chamomile directly from us

2. Dandelion

Dandelions are another surprisingly bitter herb considered to be beneficial weeds in more ways than one. It’s easy to think of a dandelion in your garden as a nuisance, but they will nourish your shallow-rooting plants with their nutrient-collecting taproots, and add layers to your culinary toolbox if you harvest them appropriately.

While most people just see them as a bother, dandelions are actually edible, nutritious, and have several culinary uses and have been a part of Chinese and Korean cuisines for centuries.

Use Dandelions to “Weed” Out Bad Flavors

As far as flavors go, dandelion greens bring an earthy, nutty and pleasingly bitter taste to the table and are best paired with savory, salty, acidic and full-bodied flavors. Dandelion, like other wild greens, can be prepared in a variety of ways, from being sautéed in oil to being eaten raw in salads and sandwiches.

You can eat every part of the dandelion—roots, stems, leaves and flowers. Some things you can do with dandelions are:

  • Make dandelion root coffee, herbal tea, or homemade wine.
  • Sautee dandelion stalks and put them in quesadillas.
  • Add color to any salad.
  • Fry the flowers in a batter and make dandelion fritters.

Where Can I Get Dandelions?

Anywhere! Dandelions are perhaps the most prolific weed that American yards have to offer. Be warned, though: dandelions in parks or near roads might have been sprayed with toxic weed killer. Alternatively, you can buy organic dandelion root straight from us

3. Peppermint

Peppermint is a mix between watermint and spearmint. Its medical benefits have long been asserted, but those effects remain scientifically unproven. Some of the benefits include: alertness enhancement, antibacterial, pain relief, itch relief, and irritable bowel syndrome relief.

Freshen Up Your Palate with Mint

Though peppermint is most commonly known for giving candy canes and other sweets their minty flavor, it’s used most often in tea. Peppermint is high in menthol, which helps to give the cooling sensation you feel when it hits your tastebuds. How you can add peppermint to your culinary adventures:

  • Add it to your favorite dessert for a boost of coolness.
  • Muddle into your favorite mojito recipe (blueberry or mango will give it a new layer of sweet).
  • Infuse your black tea with it to wake up in the morning.

Using Spearmint vs. Peppermint

If you’re making something sweet and need to add mint, you should add peppermint. If you’re making something savory and need to add mint, you should add spearmint.

Where Can I Find Peppermint?

Since peppermint was bred artificially for the first time in 1750 near London, it does not grow naturally in the wild. However, they’re fairly simple to plant grow on your own. Be warned, though: mint is an aggressive plant, and it can overtake the rest of your garden if not kept in check. If you’re not into gardening, you can buy Oregon-grown peppermint straight from us.

4. Wormwood

Wormwood is called mugwort in the UK, but it also has a lot of other names:

  • Felon herb
  • Old Uncle Henry
  • Sailor’s tobacco
  • Naughty man
  • Old Man

Wormwood is a tall, spirally plant that grows naturally in Northern Africa, Canada, and the United States. Unlike the other herbs discussed here, it is generally used more in the production of alcohol than in cooking.

Wormwood is a key ingredient in absinthe, a controversial drink that was claimed to induce madness and violence by those who opposed it. Though these claims are untrue, absinthe was banned for a hundred years.

Culinary Uses of Wormwood

Wormwood is too bitter to use in most cooking. When used as an ingredient, it is typically to give a strong, bitter flavor to meat and fish. You can also use both the leaves and the roots to make tea.

Wormwood sees much more use in beverages, however. It is a primary ingredient in bitters, which appear in many popular cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

Where Can I Get Wormwood?

Wormwood is a hardy plant that’s easy to grow at home. It’s easier to overwater wormwood than underwater it, as wormwood prefers dry soil. Alternatively, we sell wormwood for your convenience.

Don’t Be Bitter: Head Down To Colonel De’s

No flavor is meant to stand alone, but they were instead meant to stand out.  Now that we’ve explored the many sides of bitter herbs, we hope that you’ll give bitter another chance and add it to your culinary toolbox.

The best flavors are always complimented or opposed by the spices and herbs you blend together. At Colonel De, we are all about the flavor of adventure; even if you’re not interested in bringing bitter to the table, you’ll surely find another dimension of flavor by browsing through our online store or visiting us in person. Spice up your cooking today!

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The Benefits of Drinking Tea: Body, Mind and Soul- Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why do we drink tea? For some, it’s a means to unwind, for others, it’s a vehicle for health: to keep the body healthy, to maintain mental focus, and the list goes on. No matter which way you look at it, the benefits of drinking tea reach much farther than you’d first expect. Physically and mentally, tea continues to be a positive force in the world today. While the uses of tea have varied over the years, the benefits remain timeless. 

Loose Leaf Tea

10 Physical Benefits of Drinking Tea:

  • Anti-Aging Qualities
  • UV protection
  • Increases Muscle Endurance/Metabolism
  • Lowers Blood Pressure/Cholesterol
  • Strengthen Teeth/Bones
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Immune System Boost/Cold Relief
  • Hydration
  • Improves Digestive Heath
  • Freshens Breath

7 Mental Benefits of Drinking Tea:

  • Stress Relief
  • Fights Anxiety/Depression
  • Sleep Aid
  • Energy Boost
  • Increased Mental Alertness
  • Boosts Memory
  • Mental Clarity

The Types of Tea and What Makes Them Unique

Hot Tea in a Cup

How can you tell which tea is right for you? 

The answer to this is determined by your preferences: ultimately, which flavor profile and experience are you seeking? 

While all tea comes from the same plant, not all tea tastes the same. Just like any fine wine, tea flavor profiles will vary based on the following conditions of the Camellia sinensis plant: the type of soil, the weather conditions, the upkeep, the neighboring plants, all leading to the way the leaves are processed. 

The Oxidation of Tea and Endless Flavor Possibilities

From white, to green, to oolong, to black, to pu’erh, the way your tea leaves are processed will predict which tea ends up in your cup.

The biggest game-changer is the oxidation and/or fermentation of the leaves—how long tea leaves are allowed to be exposed to oxygen and microbes once they’ve been harvested from the tea plants.

The longer the leaves are exposed to oxygen, the darker the leaves become, resulting in deeper flavors.  Tea masters use many different methods to create and control oxidation:

  • Speed Up/Start Oxidation
    • Rolling
    • Shaping
    • crushing
  • Slow Down/Stop Oxidation:
    • Steaming
    • Firing
    • Roasting

Fermentation, as done with pu’erh tea, takes oxidation a step further. A solid-state fermentation over long periods of time (sometimes years) allows for the molds, bacteria and yeasts on the harvested leaves of the tea plant to create an end product with truly unique flavor profiles. 

Getting to Know the Loose Leaf Teas You Drink

Tea Leaves

Black Loose Leaf Tea

To get the boldness of Black Tea, the Camellia sinensis leaves are fully oxidized before being heat-processed and dried. The longer exposure to oxygen creates the deep brown to black coloring of the leaf and gives the tea its stronger, full-bodied flavor profiles. 

Common Flavor Profiles

What you’ll taste: bold, rich, malty, herbaceous, spicy, savory, sweet, bitter, smooth, smoky, earthy, nutty, metallic, citrus, caramel, leather, fruity, honey.

Types of Black Tea

Green Loose Leaf Tea

Green Tea results from the instant heating of the leaves after harvest—by pan firing or steaming—then immediately starting to dry the leaves. This process prevents the leaves from oxidizing too much, allowing the tea to maintain a green leaf with refreshing flavors.

Common Flavor Profiles

What you’ll taste: grassy, earthy, mellow, sweet, vegetal, seaweed-like, spinach, basil, lettuce, lush, wheat grass, citrus, herbaceous.

Types of Green Tea

Oolong Loose Leaf Tea

Oolong Tea leaves are partially oxidized, and can vary depending on the tea master in charge. Because of this process variation, the overall oxidation of Oolong teas will range from 8% to 80%—resulting in flavor profiles that fall anywhere between light green tea (less oxidized) to full-bodied black tea (more oxidized).

Common Flavor Profiles              

What you’ll taste: sweet, woodsy, fruity, berry, peach, honey, mineral rock, floral, melon, orchid, herbaceous, hearty, grassy, toasty, intense, pungent.

Types of Oolong Tea

  • Big Red Robe
  • Tie Guan Yin
  • Oolong Formosa
  • Shui Xian
  • Dancong
  • Pouchong
  • Ali Shan

White Loose Leaf Tea

White Tea gets its soft flavors and aromas from the minimal processing the leaves undergo. As soon as the buds are plucked, they are set out to wither and air dry in the sun (or a carefully controlled environment). This natural drying process decreases the overall oxidation, allowing the white tea to maintain a mostly delicate leaf.

Common Flavor Profiles

What you’ll taste: floral, grassy, honey, fruity, melon, apricot, vanilla, chocolate, citrus, herby, mild, subtle, sweet, green beans, vegetal, snow pea, spicy, peachy, ginger, cloves, pepper, cucumber, biscuit.

Types of White Tea

  • Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle)
  • Bai Mudan (White Peony)
  • Monkey Picked White Tea
  • Darjeeling White Tea

Pu’erh Tea

Tea masters ensure the Pu’erh Tea’s soft, woodsy quality through the fermentation of the tea leaves after being oxidized, dried, and rolled. Its gradual fermentation and maturation with time ensures a soothing, unique flavor profile that cannot be matched by other teas.

Common Flavor Profiles

What you’ll taste: earthy, woodsy, mushrooms, herbs, leather, hay, tobacco, musty antique store, barnyard, damp forest, dates, sweet.

Types of Pu’erh Tea

  • Raw (Sheng)
  • Ripened (Shou) Pu'erh

Herbal Loose Leaf Tea

Most herbal teas are a mix of leaves, flowers, seeds, roots, and bark that come together to create a tea-like drink. But some herbal teas add essential oils, or other elements of herbs, to tea leaves to infuse flavors and aromas.

Common Flavor Profiles

What you’ll taste: sage, lemon, rose, chamomile, mint, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, savory, marjoram, calendula, floral, sweet, honey, fruity.

(Some of the Many) Types of Herbal Tea

Get to Know Your Tea with Colonel De

For anyone, be they first-time tea drinkers or seasoned tea enthusiasts, it’s important to explore your options and taste the possibilities. Get to know your teas. Search for new flavor profiles. Be adventurous. From its origins in Eastern Asia to its influence in today’s world, tea is a cornerstone of life as we know it: refreshing, unifying, and timeless. And, while there are many benefits to drinking tea, the most important benefit of all is its flavor.

At Colonel De, we uphold the importance of what it means to enjoy a moment: from the first sip, to the first bite. No matter the tea you drink, it’s all about the experience you’re searching for.

What do you want your day to taste like? Explore today.

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Cajun Game Day Snacks and Dinners- Thursday, October 13, 2016

Football season is here and what comes to mind during football more than FOOD. Chicken wings, popcorn, pasta, dips, and more!  Nothing makes all of your favorite game day snacks and meals taste better than Colonel De’s Cajun blackening season. It’s a nice blend of smoky Cajun flavors with a little kick of heat to it.

Cajun Game Day Snacks

A football favorite in households across the USA is chicken wings.  Season up some Cajun rubbed wings for the perfect football game snack.  It’s great to sprinkle the seasoning on top of dips for that extra little kick, your popcorn for an after dinner snack, and it’s also the perfect blend for all kinds of dinners you can make any night for the family.

Colonel De's Cajun Blackening Seasoning

Incorporate Cajun Into A Meal

You can add Colonel De’s Cajun blackening seasoning to:

  • Pasta dishes (perhaps spaghetti in a Cajun cream sauce)
  • Seafood (great with salmon!)
  • Chicken (wings, as mentioned above)
  • Sausage (which can be mixed with that Cajun pasta dish above)
  • Anything else that comes to mind!

If you buy our cajun blackening seasoning or any of Colonel De’s herbs and spices,  make sure you keep the bottle when it’s all gone, because you can bring it back in and get refill for a discounted price!

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Jim Dandy Family BBQ Spot- Tuesday, February 9, 2016

At Colonel De we love great BBQ, and Jim Dandy's has some of the best in town.  We've teamed up with Founder Jim Emig to pair fresch choice meats and gourmet herbs and spices, to make that happen!  See the full spot, below.

Transcript:

Hi I'm with Colonel De of Colonel De's Herbs and Spices.  De what do you get when you combine the worlds greatest spices, yours, with fresh choice meats?  Gosh I don't know Jim what do you get?  You get Jim Dandy BBQ.  We have a brisket and two tri-tips, how did you spice these?  Well on the brisket we put a little bit of cowboy rub, and on the tri-tips we have a wonderful mixture of garlic and it just tastes fantastic.  Come visit us at JimdandyBBQ.com.  Ooh yes it's good.

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Mulling Spot- Monday, February 8, 2016

In this spot, Storm Bennett and Colonel De discuss Mulling at Hagedorn Appliances.  Mulling allows you to take extra flavor from spices and infuse them into ale, cider or wine.  This can really warm you up on a cool winter night, and we think it will be something you can enjoy for years to come!  See the video below.

Transcript:

Hi i'm Storm Bennett with Colonel De.  We're talking about his spices at Hagedorn Appliances and Mulling right, what is that?  Mulling, it's a way of taking some extra flavors from your spices and infusing them in either cider, ale or wine.  It adds a wonderful warmth, and on a cold winters day there's nothing better to warm your soul than some mulled wine, cider or ale.  Get mulled right now, at colonelde.com.

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