Tales from a Travelling Herbalist: Part 2
It's hot today! We are all wearing big straw hats and bobbing up and down in the gardens. The medicine garden is amazing with beds laid out according to the actions of the plants. The big Poke Root plant is in a bed of herbs for skin problems, and the California poppy in a bed of sleep herbs.
Today lavender and marigolds are being dried and they will be used in teas. The flowers are such a bright yellow that it seems a shame to cut them down in their prime. Marigold flowers are placed in a dryer for three to four days in 27 degrees heat. The drying box has a heater below it with a fan and the dryer has about 8 racks with different herbs on each layer. You can see what I mean in this photo:
The Garlic Harvest
If I were cast onto a desert island, and had to take but one herb with me, it would have to be garlic. Love it or hate it, garlic is one of our most important medicinal herbs. It also represents that wonderful crossover between a food and a medicine. My sister and her husband use about 70lbs of garlic for the household each year and the rest gets used in the dispensary to make tinctures and oils.
Strangely, given its fantastic anti fungal and antibacterial actions, the bulbs of garlic, when picked and hung in the barn, will only last for about six months before they start to spoil. For kitchen use, the bulbs are split open and the cloves partially air dried in a food dryer. Then they are then frozen - Chanchal calls them her ' garlic bombs'. They taste fantastic when cooked whole and added to dishes - a bit soft and chewy with a great garlicky hit.
Garlic is one of the best herbs to use to fight infection. Specific for upper respiratory problems, colds, catarrh, sinus infection and those deep chesty coughs that are productive. In clinic we tend to use garlic tincture or a garlic juice. It is impossible to disguise the taste - as soon as the bottle is open the big pungent smell is there!
About 20 years ago I first made up Echinacea and Elderflower Compound, a blend of herbs that I used to help manage a bad bout of Glandular Fever that was going through one of the schools in Edinburgh. As well as Echinacea and Elderflower, the compound contains sage, garlic, thyme and astragalus. This has become one of my most popular blends as the herbs help to clear most infections and support the immune system.
The plan for the rest of today is to continue harvesting St Johns Wort to make both oil and dried herb for tea. If only we could cool down!