So far, it has been a typical hot summer in the South. We had temperatures near 108 degrees in June and July, but, with a low relative humidity, the heat index was a degree or two lower in most areas.
Invariably, it seems I hear the same arguments over weather discrepancies. One fellow says his thermometer in his car reads 112 degrees and another fellow says his reads 115 degrees. Each guy is suffering to his own degree, so to speak. The actual temperature is only about 102 degrees, but who can feel the difference? When you’re in the feed and seed store and the refrigerated air is set at a frigid 72 degrees, it’s hard to tell the difference between 95 and 105 degrees!
It is always fun when friends, who work in offices, stop by for a visit while I’m working in the garden. I tour them through what’s growing for a few minutes then offer them some water indoors. When they step inside and sit at the kitchen table, they usually comment on how cool it is compared to outdoors. I tell them it is 20 degrees cooler than it is outside and they are usually satisfied until they figure out it is 82 degrees inside. It’s at that point they recall the time in early spring when the outside temperature was 82 degrees and they turned on the air conditioning in their home. They begin to perspire. It’s funny how a body reacts to one’s perspective of relativity. Conditioning your body and mind are very important for dealing with extreme temperatures. If you begin the warm-weather season (on the first 80-degree day) by turning on the air conditioning, it may take a colder setting to keep you comfortable when the temperatures hit 100!
Let’s explore some helpful herbal aids that might help you survive the hot weather.
The most important thing to do when enjoying the sunshine is to stay hydrated. Keeping the liquids going in faster than they go out is the best way to avoid heat-related illnesses. Now, I’m not talking about guzzling beers around the barbecue pit either. If you’re in the sun, avoid drinking alcohol beverages or at least limit your intake.
There’s nothing better for you to consume than plain old water. Let’s face it. When Mother Nature came up with humans, there were no fizzy pops to drink.
Flavored water is gaining popularity for folks who want to taste something. Unfortunately, some of the flavored waters on the market today contain preservatives, unnatural sweeteners and/or chemicals used on the plants used for flavors.
If you want your drinking water flavored, then do it yourself with picks from the garden. The simplest quick flavor to add is mint (Mentha sp.). Just plain old mint steeped in a pitcher of iced water for an hour or two while you work in the heat is a refreshing treat when you take a break.
Mint water can be the base for other flavor additions like cucumber. Borage and salad burnet have a mild cucumber-like flavor and the flowers from borage are naturally sweet and make an attractive presentation in clear stemware.
The refreshing flavor of cucumber from the actual fruit (vegetable) is another tasty base for adding another flavor to your water. Cucumber is one of those fresh flavors that blends well with all citrus fruit flavors and most other fruits as well.
Anything lemon works well for flavoring water. Lemongrass, lemon balm…and how about lemons? Simply putting the zest of a large lemon into a pitcher of iced water for a couple of hours will add a refreshing mild flavor to your summertime refreshment.
Lemon zest, orange zest and thinly-sliced cucumbers with mint leaves in iced water make a tasty beverage to cool you down on a hot August day.
Watermelon has got to be the fruit of the Southern gods. You just cannot have a summer barbecue without an ice-cold watermelon. Watermelons have a high water content (about 90 degrees) as well as about 6 percent sugar. Watermelons are rich in vitamin C, beta carotene and other phyto-chemicals like lycopene.
Eat it straight or drink it. Watermelon has long been used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat urinary tract infections and hypertension. Xi gua, as it is known in Chinese herbal medicine, helps the body cool down naturally.
As a drink, watermelon is one of my favorite summertime heat remedies. Take a watermelon and remove the coarse rind. Puree the rest in a blender until it is mostly liquid. Chill the drink until it is ice cold. Drink it!
Another way to enjoy your summertime watermelon is to strip the red (or yellow) flesh for snacking and strip the inner rind from the outer rind. Steep the white rind in a stock pot full of refrigerated iced water for a few hours. Sweeten, if you like. You can use cane sugar, honey or crushed Stevia leaves.
Finally, I want to share a recipe for a great thirst-quenching drink perfect for these hot August afternoons in the garden when you want something that is tasty, hydrating and energy boosting.
Last month, on the Fourth of July, a good friend brought me a couple of quarts of fruit water. I don’t quite know the absolute history behind it and I am sure the recipe is relative to taste, but it is delicious. I call it "Jessi and Gordo’s Light Nectar."
In a large pot (8-quart stockpot), dissolve four cups of sugar into three quarts of water. Add the flesh of one honeydew melon (chunked), four oranges (pulp and juice only) and 16 ounces of strawberries. Using a hand held mixer, completely puree the contents. Strain the mixture into pitchers or storage containers. Taste for sweetness desired. Serve ice cold. Man, that stuff really gets me going on a hot summer day!
FYI: Jessi and Gordo’s Light Nectar is a great party mixer with gin, vodka, arack or tequila.
Remember to stay hydrated in the summer heat. I’ll be back in September with more herbal tips.
Until then, watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!
Thanks for reading!
Be sure to find me on Facebook at: "Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm."
As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.