Salt: Weed Warfare

I have a lovely patio, with perfect cracks between the stones for growing weeds.

The people who owned this house before us would use Round-Up to keep the weeds down. However, I don’t want poisons in my yard, where my children play and where we breathe in fumes (while spraying). Yes, I understand that the makers of these weed neurotoxins state that they are harmless to humans, and that they disintegrate after a few hours of exposure to sun/air. I also know that Round-Up is chemically very, very close to a human neurotoxin which destroyed the dopamine center of the brain in the unfortunate people who took it (as a street drug), clinically launching them into complete paralysis as in endstage Parkinson’s Disease.

When it comes down to it, I just try to avoid poisons of all kinds.

And that’s why my patio looked like it did in the picture above. Terrible. Some of the weeds were as high as my knee.

Of course we had to pull them out; no easy spraying method here. And of course, some of the plants had tap roots that wouldn’t come up/got broken off (probably old roots which broke off last year).

A month ago, I pulled weeds all around the deck, where it comes down to the patio, and then used regular table salt in the cracks. To date, it is keeping down all the weeds in this one area.

I got this idea as I remembered something about the Romans sewing fields with salt in lands that they conquered. I looked this up on Wiki, and it seems that there are as many myths about this as anything, although salting fields was used at other times in history as a punishment for crimes.

Whatever. I know that for our backyard, we won’t be poisoned by salt, and that nothing will grow in salty cracks.

This week, we tackled the whole patio, big weeds and all. Here are my weeding helpers. Many hands make light(er) work!

The salt I used is the cheapest on the grocery store shelf, and I want to make clear that we DO NOT use this type of refined, bleached, iodized salt for eating. I had it on hand for making playdough.

If you are just switching over to healthy, unrefined salt with all the wonderful minerals in it (which your body is craving . . . so salt away!), then weed abatement might be the perfect use for the salt that was previously in your shaker.

Remember: wherever you put salt, it is likely that NOTHING will grow there for a very long time, so you obviously can’t salt areas of your yard where you have plantings, grass, etc.

We were careful not to put so much salt on that it would run off onto the lawn when wet.

Wow, look at those weeds!

Once we had finished pulling and salting, I ran water over the salt to melt it into the cracks, and then I sprayed off the whole patio.

Now it looks so lovely, we ate dinner out there last night and breakfast this morning!

How To Soak and Dry Nuts

I’m drying a few batches of walnuts in preparation for holiday baking. Here’s my method:

Put 4 cups walnuts into a glass bowl. I’m doing 2 batches here.

Add a heaping tsp. of sea salt to the nuts.

Cover with purified water. Let sit for 24 hours on the countertop. This allows the nuts to soak up the salt water, which breaks down the phytic acid in them.

After the nuts have soaked 24 hours, drain off the water, and transfer them to baking pans. I try not to use aluminum cookware, so I use my glass pans.

Place in an oven at about 120 degrees, to allow the enzymes to stay intact. My oven only goes down to 170, so I use the warming drawer under my oven.

Leave in there for about 2 days, stirring every 12 hours or so. When done, they will be crispy all the way through. Store in a sealed container. Use them in baking (which kills the enzymes, but there is still the benefit of having the phytic acid removed). They are also delicious on salads, or as a small snack.

French Onion Soup

Mmm . . . what could be more comforting on a dreary winter evening than a bowl of cheese-encrusted French Onion Soup? Made with a base of homemade Beef Bone Broth, it’s also a immune boosting, gut healing, blood and bone building elixir. The addition of steak is optional: I landed on it as a great way to use day-old steak, and my husband loves finding hearty meat in his soup!

4-5 yellow onions, sliced
3-4 shallots, sliced (if unavailable, use an additional onion)
5 T. butter
1 quart strong beef bone broth, tallow removed
2-4 cups water
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 bay leaves
day-old steak, sliced thinly against grain, or shredded roast (optional)
1-4 tsp. unrefined sea salt (see note)
crusty bread for topping, artisan soudough or french bread is good
sliced cheese for melting, such as Havarti, Jack, or Gouda

Melt butter in a large heavy enameled dutch oven. Add sliced onions and shallots, stirring to coat with the butter. Cook uncovered over Medium-High heat for 15 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes with a wooden spoon, or until onions have turned a dark brown as they caramelize. Cover and cook another 25 minutes on Medium-Low, stirring occasionally. Onions will shrink during cooking.

Add broth, water, thyme, bay leaves, pepper, meat if desired, and half of salt. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves, and add salt to taste (see note). This soup has a lot of sweetness from the carmelized onions, so I like it best when I’ve salted just enough for my tongue to tell me “savory” rather than “sweet/bland”. (Since the homemade broth isn’t pre-salted, you may be surprised by the amount of salt it will need.) I can not overemphasize salting correctly, as this brings out the delicate onion/shallot flavor, bringing it from frumpy to fabulous.

Set oven to Broil. Toast bread, unless it is the ends, then slice into 1 inch strips. Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls, and top with toast slices, then top with sliced cheese. Place bowls on top rack of oven and leave door open slightly so you can watch them; they are ready when cheese melts and bubbles, with light brown edges.

Serve straight from the oven to the table; warn your family of the hot bows and set potholders at each spot to protect your table top.

Note: different salts have differing amounts of saltiness. Unrefined salt (usually grey, red, or another color because of the minerals still in it) is less salty than refined salt, which has additives (including aluminum -yuck!) for dryness and easy pouring which give it a harsh or bitter flavor and dextrose sugar to cover this flavor. Unrefined salt is the better choice, but you will need to adjust the amount you add according to taste. If the salt you use is the moist coarse kind (such as the wonderful Course Sea Salt from Trader Joes), wait a few minutes after adding salt to the soup pot before tasting. Since it has large salt crystals, it takes a little longer for it to dissolve; it would be easy to oversalt it in haste.