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Freezing in February - Warm up with Chocolate
February has arrived - my least favorite month of the year. It's cold and the snow has been gaining on us here in Central Mass. We have somewhere around 45" right now, and more snow is predicted in the coming week. As long as I don't lose power, I'm OK with the snow. But I will gripe about it - arms, shoulders and even hands are complaining. One good thing about being out in the cold and snow is coming in to a warm house, and having a little chocolate, especially to drink, is fine and conjures up memories of childhood. Most of us who grew up in New England went outside to play in the snow, making snow angels, sledding, building snow forts, etc. My dad would take us ice fishing, and my sister and I would take turns skating and pulling each other around on a "Flying Saucer". Do kids even do anything like that anymore? I don't see many kids in the neighborhood out and about.
February is National Chocolate Month - how appropriate! Chocolate was one of the things I missed the most when I gave up sugar three years ago. I have since found a chocolate sweetened with stevia that is really good - though my friend took a bite the other day and made a face, saying it was not sweet. Of course, if I take a taste of anything with sugar, like some candies I made for the Super Bowl party I attended, the flavor of sweet is so overwhelming I can't even keep it in my mouth. The chocolate bar, made by Lily's Sweets, comes in several flavors, my favorite being coconut. If I want some rich hot chocolate, I can warm up milk and grate the chocolate bar into it. Satisfying, and less calories, too.
Theobroma cacao, or chocolate, is an herb, of course. In South America, it is considered to be an aphrodisiac. It was revered by the ancient Aztecs, and when it was introduced to Europe in the 1500's, it was an exotic that was believed to have those properties that induced sexual potency and desire. So much so, that monks were forbidden to use it, in fear that they would run amok and break their vows of chastity. Chocolate, though given particularly at this time of year as a gift, can stimulate and refresh the central nervous system. If you are weary or tired, drinking chocolate can lift your spirits and revitalize you. In that way, your sex life may indeed improve!
In preparation for an upcoming lecture, I am researching aphrodisiac herbs. Fellow herbalist Linda Patterson has graciously shared her recipe for Damiana liqueur, which combines the rich, sinfulness of chocolate with another herb from South America, damiana, or Tunera diffusa. The Aztecs used it as a tea with honey to increase mood, and it was used in Mexico as a tea for muscle and nerve weakness. Large amounts of the leaves in a tea are said to be good for male impotence. Along with chocolate, I'm sure it is a winner!
DAMIANA LIQUEUR – Linda Patterson
1 oz damiana leaf 1 pint spring water
1 pint of quality vodka 12 oz bitter sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup honey
Mix vodka and damiana in a mason jar and let stand for 5 days. After 5 days, strain vodka into another mason jar and cap for later use. Cover freshly strained damiana with a pint of spring water and let stand 3 days. Strain the water into a double boiler and add the chopped chocolate. Add honey to double boiler and heat until all ingredients are melted and combined. As preparation begins to cool add the vodka ( you don’t want to add the alcohol too early or the heat will cook off the alcohol). Let stand 1 month and serve warm.