Kathryn and Antonia on Elsie Street in Bernal Heights, San Francisco, 1970
As a hippie chick in San Francisco in the 60’s I can assure you that my herbal qualifications run both wide and deep! Prior to Antonia’s entrance onto planet Earth I had spent a goodly amount of time living in a community out in Sonoma County woods where food and accompanying herbs were, I would have to say, central to our lives. A macrobiotic lifestyle was essential to our living together. We ate only organic foods, mostly rice and fruits and vegetables. Sugar and desserts were not part of the picture. But herbal remedies were.
When later Antonia and I lived in Holland our first year was spent being part of an international group of folks running a vegetarian restaurant. Upstairs was an herb shop and Antonia spent many afterschool hours up in that herb shop among dozens of large glass bottles of herbs. The folks who ran the herb shop were given to gifting her with long fat licorice (root) sticks and I’m certain there are people other than myself who would still recall little Antonia walking around chewing with great delight on a frayed licorice stick!
Therefore it is no surprise that to this day our respective kitchens are always abundantly full with many choices of herbs! Though I’m certain many of you have found your way to many of these same herbal remedies I thought I’d take time to give you a peek into our cupboard here and share the tried and true we rely upon. Interestingly, the glass jars full of herbs that used to line my counters have been replaced largely by (high quality) commercial products in boxes. I deeply appreciate that there are companies with good ethics and standards who have made herbs available to the public which are healthy and trustworthy. I also appreciate that specific remedies have been created that I now count upon, such as Throat Coat made by Traditional Medicines.
Still, we rely on certain basic simple herbs for their healing qualities. First and foremost in my kitchen is probably chamomile. I sleep really well and get lots of sleep every night. But on the rare occasion I am awakened from my good slumber I am not inclined to go back straightaway to that restorative sleep. Sometimes I really do have to get up and make a cup of chamomile tea (by nightlight, trust me) in order to easily fall back into a good sleep. Chamomile is also good as a digestive remedy, as is ginger.
Green tea has become a daily staple in my kitchen. By now you’ve probably heard of the antioxidant properties of green tea. Every week I prepare a large portion of it in a stainless steel pan that is reserved just for my green tea. I add a bit of local raw honey to it and keep it in the frig. Every day I drink green tea with my lunch. I find having it on hand ensures I will keep it in my daily diet, and preparing it beforehand in a large quantity saves on the exorbitant costs of buying it in a store. Most store bought varieties are laced with high fructose corn syrup, and heaven knows what else. Nothing good. And if you get into the practice of making it in bulk at home you will wonder why you ever went with a commercial version. It’s so much better (and economical) freshly made at home!
The only strong caffeine that is incorporated into my life is black tea in the morning with honey and soymilk. I really love the fruit flavored black teas available, and blackberry sage is my favorite at the moment.
I keep peppermint on hand because people who visit sometimes ask for a pick me up, though they don’t want to drink caffeine. Peppermint is stimulating, and also helps with digestion. I have both peppermint and spearmint growing in the kitchen garden. Sometimes I pick a few leaves and add to the weekly green tea.
Another herb we rely upon is licorice root. I turn to licorice root to be kind to my stomach, but you must know that overuse of licorice root is discouraged. My favorite form of licorice root is to buy in bulk from the health food store and store myself.
Last herb I will mention here is lemon verbena, which my dear friend Conny grows in her garden and I was the lucky recipient of a goodly amount. It has a very special flavor. I’m told the French drink it in the evening (though they call it an infusion). Truly a pot of lemon verbena is a lovely way to enhance the day’s end, as we prepare ourselves for the night’s sleep.
Enjoy your herbs, dear readers! And please share with me your favorites.
Love and kitchen blessings,
Posted on February 1st, 2011 by Kathryn
Filed under: Plants