As an herbalist, I work with bioregional plants to craft traditional herbal offerings for mind, body and spirit at Pine + Clover Apothecary. Living in a more Northern region of Ontario, we are so lucky here to witness four beautiful, unique seasons -- some feeling much longer than the others.
Fall is to us herbalists, foragers + gardeners what April is to accountants; a surge of activity to harvest, store and plan ahead for a deep rest in our growing season over Winter, until the ground thaws and baby seedlings unfurl again next Spring.
In my herbal practices at home with my family, we have a few tried-and-true green allies that we look to for seasonal immune support once Winter approaches. We sink into Winter’s call to rest with warming, rooty herbal teas under thick cozy blankets, and always seem to have a batch of elderberry syrup bubbling on the stove.
We also like to spend a ton of time cooking and grooving in the kitchen.
So the first plant we turn to every cold and flu season, without fail, is actually a pretty familiar kitchen herb for many of us. It’s highly accessible and available, so incredibly versatile, and comes right from our gardens to our kitchens.
Garlic. Some love it, some hate it.
Still, there’s no denying that these potent little bulbs carry powerful immune-stimulating and antimicrobial benefits.
“Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers” is a 1980 documentary from the perspectives of chefs and historians on their love for those that adore, prize, cook with, pick and grow these little babies. And it’s quite possibly my favourite poetic title to quote when looking at garlic for health. Us herbalists really love showing people the animacy and intelligence in plants when it comes to healing, and what love is stronger than a mama bear?
Garlic is an immune system stimulant, diaphoretic, expectorant, and antimicrobial.
The raw cloves of garlic can be used to support our body’s response to respiratory conditions, especially in the winter months. Garlic can ease some of the discomforts of a cold through its anti-inflammatory action, as well as shorten its duration by stimulating the immune system, thinning mucus, and even helping to break a fever.
Mix raw garlic bulbs with garden sage (for it’s wonderful scent and benefits on the nervous system), and an elixir of raw, local honey: and you’ve got yourself a sweet little jar of plant goodness to slather on meats, mix into a salad dressing, or bravely, like me… pop a spoonful right into your mouth on the days you just need a good Mother in your life.
Garlic + Sage Infused Honey Recipe
- A small glass canning jar with lid (4 oz size preferable)
- Enough raw, (local if possible) liquid honey to fill your jar
- 5-6 garlic cloves, crushed + peeled
- Dried garden sage (salvia officinalis)
- Peel your garlic cloves + crush them slightly to release their aromatic oils. I use the flat end of a heavy chef’s knife to do this by simply pressing down on each garlic clove, then letting them sit for up to 5 minutes.
- Use a spoon to scoop out enough liquid raw honey to fill your canning jar. Almost to the top, but not quite!
- Crush your dried sage with a mortar and pestle to release it’s volatile oils. It’s very important to be using only dried sage for this recipe, as fresh herbs will introduce moisture into a closed jar which can create mold and bacteria growth.
- Pop your crushed and peeled garlic bulbs into your jar of honey + submerge. Top with the dried sage.
- Stir well, ensuring that the dried herb is mixed in nicely and the garlic cloves are fully submerged in the honey.
- Screw your canning lid on, label your jar (don’t forget the date!) and store it in a cool, dark place for 3-5 days.
Once it has finished sitting for 3-5 days, remove the bulbs (compost or use right away for cooking!) and store the jar of infused honey in the fridge to keep fresh throughout the season.
As we ease into Winter, it’s a great time to be cozying up in a warm kitchen creating things for yourself, the people you love, and your health.
Lighting a candle while you cook as the evenings get darker, tuning in to a great playlist, and working with the plants and foods which are seasonally available are small actions that honour this change in seasonal rhythm and invite the energetics of Winter into our homes + lives.
Britt Gillman is an herbalist + owner of Pine + Clover Apothecary in Deep River, Ontario. Life-long student of medicinal plants + the outdoors, she enjoys wildcrafting bioregional herbal offerings for her community, rooted in the rhythm of the seasons.