A Herbalist's Guide to Making Broths
In the clinic, my prescribing methods are precise and the measuring cylinder is a close friend. However, in the kitchen, I'm known to stray from recipes and that's if one is even being used. Being experimental with food blends beautifully with seasonal eating, intuitive eating, and using what's available to us.
I love to use whatever garden herbs are currently flourishing, flowering, or available for harvesting.
Adding fresh or dried herbs is just one way to get more nutrients and flavour into your home-made broths. Mine are always floral and herbal medicine from regular kitchen herbs sneak in regularly. Based on intuition and what's accessible I make both vegetable and bone broths that can be used in every-day cooking or enjoyed simply as a hot cup of gut-soothing, body-warming top up anytime of the day.
Tips For Making a Healthful and Nourishing Broth
First, some tips
TIP Instead of composting or throwing your scraps in the bin (which is a big no no as they add significantly to greenhouse emissions) you can freeze them until you are ready to make a stock.
TIP If using conventional (non-organic or low-spray) produce wash them before use, particularly citrus. Find out more about the dirty dozen as a guide
TIP Include seeds and clean roots. For example, pumpkin seeds are highly nutrient dense and are rich in zinc. Fresh herb roots add flavour and nutrients. Consider these 'off-cuts' and include them in your stock.
All of my stocks/broths are vegetable-based. This simply means making plants the highlight to gain complex flavour and phytonutrient value. The majority of ingredients are in-season - things like spices may be pantry staples and potentially imported from wherever in the world they grow best in their preferred environment. This is an important consideration as a plant's nutrient value can only be as great as the soil it's grown in and out of season or natural environment growing usually requires more sprays, unwanted chemicals, and additional growing intervention.
Creating the base
Vegetable tops and off-cuts
You might like to add soft (but not rotten or colourless) vegetables that didn't make it into meals during their prime.
Carrots / tops
Brassica stalks and leaves e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, kale
Greens stalks e.g. chard, spinach
Radish / tops
Onion with skins*
Garlic cloves with skins
Lemon with peel - the bitter peel aids digestion and nutrient bioavailability
Salt - as preferred. I use very little and simple add when cooking
* Skins contain higher levels of nutrients
Adding aromatic herbs and spices
Here is a list of my favourite herbal medicine for broths:
Calendula flowers fresh or dried - wound-healing, stimulates lymphatic flow, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-viral, reduces muscle spasm, high cholesterol, and blood lipids. Great for skin infections, acne, eczema, boils, menstrual irregularity, intestinal ulcers, swollen glands, and varicose veins.
Chilli or cayenne pepper ground or whole chilli with seeds - stimulates circulation, warming. Great for poor circulation, chillblaines, and joint pain.
Cinnamon ground or quills - warming, circulatory stimulant, blood sugar regulating. Great for ovulation pain, PCOS, insulin resistance, sugar cravings.
Coriander seed whole or ground - carminative (soothes indigestion and gut pain), anti-microbial. Great for bloating, IBS.
Fennel seed whole or ground - galactagogue (promotes lactation), carminative (soothes indigestion and gut pain). Great for low milk supply in breastfeeding mothers, bloating, IBS, reflux.
Fenugreek seed whole or ground - galactagogue (promotes lactation), reduces mucous build up. Great for sinusitis, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), and low milk supply in breastfeeding mothers.
Ginger root ground or fresh - circulatory stimulant, anti-inflammatory, warming, digestive aid. Great for sore joints, cold extremities, soothing nausea and bloating.
Lavender flowers fresh or dried - antispasmodic, carminative, mild sedative. Great for low mood, IBS and digestive issues, anxiety, headache, menopause
Reishi mushroom powder - Immune stimulating and adaptogenic. Great for stress, and recurrent infections associated with low immunity.
Rosemary leaves and stalks - increases circulation in the body including to the brain. Aids memory and cognition. Support liver function and detoxification. Anti-inflammatory, warming. Great for students, brain fog, cognitive decline, tinnitus, and alzheimers.
Thyme leaves and stalks - anti-microbial properties promote a healthy microbiome and fights infection or overgrowth of pathogens. Great for candida overgrowth.
Turmeric root ground or fresh - aids liver function, anti-inflammatory, warming. Great for reducing inflammatory pain such as arthritis.
Zizyphus / Jujube fruit, fresh or dried - Mild sedative, digestive, warming, relaxant, reduces sweats, nutritive, reduces blood pressure. Great for restlessness, anxiety and nervousness, menopausal or night sweats, high blood pressure, and as a post-partum tonic
Turning Your Stock into a Bone Broth
Fish head or organic chicken frames are what I use most to make a bone broth. You might like to roast a chicken to eat and then use the leftover frame or you can buy organic chicken frames of roosters or older hens that been well-treated and have now stopped laying. Besides the factor of choosing the most sustainable option for our planet earth, it is also important to choose organic and ethically raised meat wherever you can as toxins such as heavy metals, drugs, and wastes are stored in animal bones and organ meats. You do not want to be boiling these down into your nourishing broth.
The Cooking Method
Once you've decided on the kind of broth you want to make it's cooking time! I use a pressure cooker but you can use a slow cooker or large pot on the stove.
Add water to cover all of the ingredients or as per your appliance instructions for safety
Apply a lid to contain the plant essential oils and avoid excess water loss. If required, add water as it cooks. If using a pressure cooker you won't need to do this.
Stove top and slow cookers: cook on low/simmer for 2-7 hours based on your time and needs.
Pressure cooker: cook as per your appliance instructions. I prefer a minimum of 2 hours for best infusion.
Strain and Store
Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain liquid through a sieve to avoid seeds and vegetable fibres. Squeeze excess liquid from ingredients by pushing down on the contents with a plate or mug while straining.
Vegetable stock can be kept in the fridge for up to one week. Bone broths must be used within 3-4 days of refrigeration. Freeze cooled excess broth in solid plastic or jars with at least 20% of airspace and a loosened lid to avoid a mess!