The season is changing. Leaves the color of fire are backdropped by a sky that seems too blue to be real. The air smells of wood-smoke and apples. Fields are full of cornstalks and pumpkins. And, as is so often the case when the temperatures begin that bipolar flux we call autumn  – colds and flus are on the rise.

chicken_soup

Despite the fact that I get sick nearly every year at this time, the season always seems to take me by surprise. I think about taking my elderberry syrup or digging out the bottle of echinacea, but by the time I usually do, I’m already done for. And along those same lines – just as I know that illness is a time when my body needs extra nutrition and support – the idea of slaving over a hot stove for hours  is one that is much better in theory than when I feel like death warmed over. This is precisely why I love chicken noodle soup.

chicken_soup2

Everything about it is low maintenance. You don’t really have to chop anything if you don’t feel like it: just put everything in the pot and let it simmer happily away while you cozy up on the couch with your box of tissues.   And by selecting a vegetable or two from each category, you will ensure without even trying that the end product is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that will support your immune system and quicken your body’s recovery time.  This really is the one-pot stop – a nourishing meal and a medicinal decoction all in one.

nettle_leafI leave the guidelines loose so that you can quickly craft the soup out of what you’ve got knocking around the fridge. The sea vegetables and immune tonifying herbs might take a little forethought – but they are great things to have on hand, so I thoroughly encourage you to order some now so you’ll be well prepared when that inevitable cold strikes.

Here’s what to include in your soup:

  • Healthy fat: olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee – 2 tablespoons
  • Onion family members: garlic, leeks, onions, shallots – 2  cups worth
  • Carrot family members: celery, fennel, parsnips, carrots, parsley, cilantro, etc. – 2 cups worth
  • Mushrooms: shiitake, oyster mushrooms, maitake, etc. – 2 cups worth
  • Sea vegetables: Dulse, kelp, arame, wakame, nori – ½ cup worth (dried)
  • Immune tonifying herbs: astragalus, eluethero, nettle leaf, and burdock root   – 1 tablespoon each (confined in a muslin sack or cheesecloth tied up with string). Note: Leave the astragalus and eleuthero out when fever and and other signs of active infection are present. They are better suited for convalescence and prevention.
  • Herbs and Spices: thyme, rosemary, oregano, ginger, chili, etc. – several sprigs/ slices of each.
  • Organic free-range chicken – whole bird, around 6-8 lbs.
  • Greens: spinach, cabbage, kale, collards, etc. – 2 cups.
  • Miso paste – ½ cup.

To make:

  • Heat the olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee  in a big stock pot.
  • Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes, until they  are beginning to color. Add the carrots and mushrooms and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the sea vegetables, herbs, and spices and then place the chicken in the pan with enough water to cover well (about 3 quarts). Let the pot simmer away. Typically the soup will take about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of your chicken. About ten minutes prior to to the end of your cooking time, add the greens.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan and let cool. Use a fork to shred the meat off of the bone and add it back to the soup. Remove the sachet of immune herbs and discard.
  •  Add the miso and stir to dissolve. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  • When ready to serve, ladle a good selection of veggies and chicken into a large bowl (or mug with a handle for best slurping capabilities), and a good serving of broth. Enjoy, and feel better soon!

Related WishGarden Posts
Burdock, http://wishgardenherbs.com/blog/980/the-benefits-of-burdock/
Nettle, http://wishgardenherbs.com/blog/151/nettle-urtica-dioica-gracilis/

Danielle Charles Davies has a BSc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and in addition completed two years of clinical training at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism. She has written for the the American Herbalists Guild  and has also served as a food columnist. Her musings, and recipes, can be found at her blog, Teacup Chronicles.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.