Sunday, May 24, 2009

Two steps forward, two steps back

It took me a little while to recover from the inadvertent 12-mile detour between Caledonia State Park and King's Gap State Park -- scenic, yes, but also quite hot and also hilly -- on Wednesday. After a day of rest and recuperation at Don & Caroline's lovely home in Carlisle, PA, I marveled at what a few naps, good food, and charming company can do. I feel great. Ollie's looking well-rested, too.

Yesterday, I traveled with the friendly folks at The Rosemary House to help out at the annual Herb Festival in Baltimore. (Yes, Baltimore, putting me just about a day's ride from where I started nearly a month ago. Don't think that little detail escaped my notice or that of my dad who could not help but point out that my route thus far has been less... efficient... than it could have been. I noticed the same thing when traveling through Bedford and seeing the "Cumberland: 34 miles" sign last week. This journey is about learning, so I'm hoping I become a better mapper as I go along....) Anyway, back on point, the festival was pretty cool. While my master plan to secure for myself a cone of lavender ice cream (my current obsession) was foiled, I did learn quite a bit. David -- an amazingly knowledgeable herbalist -- on the drive down helped me clear up some confusion surrounding my understanding of the relationship between "natural medicine" and "homeopathy." I had always equated the two, but it seems this is a common misconception. (The fact that I did not sack out on the drive down -- we had woken up at 4:45am to drive to the festival -- is a testament to the engaging and thoughtful nature of David's conversation.)

At the festival itself, I spent most of my time devouring a quart of fresh strawberries and (wo)manning the used book section of the Rosemary House booth. I was in my element. I mean, used books on gardening and cooking?? I think I did a fairly good job on sales, but I also managed to read up on using plants to control various garden pests and got somewhat sidetracked thumbing through a book on using herbs and flowers to make natural soaps. I also had a bit of a reprieve from the heat when I went to a talk in the chapel called "Enhancing your health with culinary herbs," given by near-Dr. Andrew Pengelly, a charming and somewhat self-effacing Australian gentleman. It was here that many of my instincts surrounding the curative and preventative nature of herbs and spices were confirmed. I learned new things about some of the health benefits of some of my favorite spices, too. Of note were

  • garlic (eating as little as a half of a raw clove per day has been shown to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood clotting, never mind that your garlic breath keeps most swine-flu-bearing folks at a safe distance)

  • parsley (high in iron and also good for GI issues)

  • ginger and turmeric (anti-inflammatories -- I still stand by my claim that tea made with lots of chopped, fresh ginger and honey cures just about everything from sore muscles to insomnia to allergies)

  • cinnamon (believed to help prevent/control diabetes due to its glucose/insulin-moderating properties).

I also learned about some preliminary clinical studies on the health effects of various herbal extracts. In Asia, for example, a study of the elderly in relation to the amount of curry they consume -- lots, some, or none -- seemed to have a direct correlation to their cognitive function. Now, obviously there are many factors and biases inherent in such a study, but imagine -- just imagine! -- if we could prevent or drastically reduce the onset of Alzheimer's, dementia, or other memory loss afflictions by periodically consuming curries and other flavorful food. I believe in modern science and medicine (ahem, Justin) but I also can't help but note that for so many years and in so many other cultures there are natural, food- and herb-based remedies that work. (Don't worry, Rudy, I'm steering clear of coffee enemas....)

I'm hoping to learn much more about the growing, storage, and use of herbs over the next few days. For those who might be interested in lavender ice cream (and making me green with envy: I will be somewhere in Connecticut by then), you should check out the PA Lavender Festival, which runs from June 19-21.


  1. Ibti,
    Just heard that you will be heading up to NE Pennsylvania in early June. Will you be visiting with your cousin Caroline? We would love to have you come visit our CSA in Stroudsburg PA. We are established on open space land that the municipality purchased a few years ago, which made start-up easy for a young farmer without much capital. We have a 100 member CSA this year and we look forward to the possibility of hosting you for a few days! Safe journey!
    PEace and light,
    Heidi Secord

  2. lavender ice cream sounds tasty! sounds a lot better than the coffee Es anyway.

  3. Hello Heidi. I *am* planning on visiting Caroline for a few days and am delighted by your kind invitation. Jim speaks very highly of the Cherry Hill CSA and had suggested coming by for a day or two when I'm in the area to learn and help out.

    Rudy, I'm totally going to look for an ice cream maker on craigslist when I'm back in DC. (I'll need to balance out your healthy juice-making with some good old-fashioned fat, cream, and sugar, heheh.)

  4. Ibti~ You left just a few days too early... I have a Lavender Cheesecake in the oven right now for our program and tea tomorrow on the herbs and flowers of Shakespeare. "Here's flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram..."


Thanks for your comment! Just making sure this isn't spam.... Thanks for your patience. :)Ibti