Friday, April 09, 2010

April meeting

I enjoyed the meeting last night at the Carman Ainsworth Senior Center. We met in the big main room, because the other group that usually meets there was absent. Old business done*, Symposium business updated*, then Norma Jones gave us an informative herb study covering "Huckleberries", a topic she wanted to study after trying some huckleberry tea. As Sue (humorously) exclaimed, "You've ruined my childhood memories of going huckleberry picking!", Norma told us that the berries that so many of us have picked "Up North" are not huckleberries, as our folks told us, but are instead a plant known as "low-bush blueberries."
Huckleberries are actually a plant know to herbalists as Billberry!

Huckleberries grow in the western U.S. in elevations of 2,000 ft and above, and are tall bushes. The berries we pick in Northern Michigan are definitely below waist high.
(I have dear memories of picking low-bush blueberries in the sandy soil piney woods in the UP when the boys were young, and every year I visit one of my favorite low-bush blueberry picking spots near Ludington, but you won't get that spot from me easily. I never get much more than memories there, because our vacation week is just a tad early for ripe berries, but the memories are delicious.)
They won't transplant easily to lower elevations, and there is some thought that the very deep snows of the western mountains protect the shrubs from deep cold temperatures and killing winds.

While Norma talked, some of us served her hot Billberry tisane (made from berries) to the gals. She searched "fruitlessly" for a huckleberry tea like she had before, but finally found these Billberry teabags at Dale's Health Foods store. I think it needed sweetening - Billberries are apparently not a sweet fruit.After her talk, I was reading the package, and it told of WWII pilots having eaten Billberry jam before night time flights, because they swore it improved their night vision!

Norma gave me the website address for an informative site she was able to  find on Huckleberry and Billberry: and bilberries.htm

*NOTE: One note about our business meetings - since I'm not officially reporting on our meetings - that is the Secretary's job! - members who need to catch up should refer to the Yahoo Group which is restricted to members of the GCHS, or call someone who was there. I'm using this blog space to tell about our herb studies, our activities, our projects, our history.

Well, after we helped ourselves to refreshments, we listened while Lois Meldrum spoke on Tea Tips. I took some notes to share ... but really, if you would like a speaker on "everything Tea", Lois is the one to call.

Here are a few highlights, just skimming the surface:

Tea is like a sponge for kitchen odors - buy small quantities and store in a sealed box.

Black tea has a longer shelf life.

You can buy excellent tea in tea bags these days, not like in the past when teabags earned a bad name.
For instance of today's good tea, a tea by Revolution comes in silk bags and you can see the whole leaf.

Use just boiling water - you need to preserve the oxygen in the water to make good tea.

To de-caffeinate tea, pour off the water after 30 seconds and recover with fresh water. The first rinse removes 75 percent of the caffeine, without losing the flavor.

Stronger tea? use more time, not more tea.

No milk with lemon, add sugar before lemon.

Lois has a recipe for tea for a crowd- but I didn't get it all. Call her!

At a Tea, it is considered an honor to be the "Mother" of the teapot, a guardian who is trusted to keep the pot warm, full and poured.

Lois had some sweet suggestions for sharing tea. One was to give a Tea Shower for a new bride, a useful suggestion considering how well-stocked so many independent young ladies kitchens are these days. Shower her with all the things she would need to have a proper tea party.
Or... for a birthday of a close friend, ask her and a few friends to lunch, but arrive at the restaurant early and ask the waitress if you could "dress the table" before your friends arrive. Set the table with real china, cloth napkins, a centerpiece, you get the idea - it will be a special lunch, and you don't have to clean the house!
Or... for a hospitalized friend, bring a thermos of hot water, some muffins or special treat, and table setting - again those real napkins and china - and set up a tea for two on the rolling table in the hospital room.

Lois gave us recipe suggestions for tea sandwiches, and interesting additions to flavor tea. I'm definitely going to try adding berries to my hot tea.
She shared buffet hints, and this very handy tip about keeping tea sandwiches fresh: put your prepared sandwiches on a plate or tray in a single layer, cover with waxed paper, then cover the wax paper with a wrung out damp tea towel. Refrigerate until serving time.

Here is a recipe Lois shared for Orange Honey Butter that several gals were copying down:

Lois's Orange Honey Butter

To one stick of softened butter, stir in 2 Tblsp. thawed orange juice concentrate and 2 Tblsp. honey.
Allow flavors to meld in the refrigerator overnight.

"Finally", Lois told us, "Have fun with it! Tea is supposed to be relaxing, not stressful!"
Amen, Lois, and thank you.