Hello out there. Let me start by stating very clearly that I am not an herbalist, nor do I claim to be one. However, I do love plants and those who study and practice herbalism. It is through my encounters and exchanges with friends and the herbal community that I have developed a deeper appreciation of our natural world and the power of plants that surround us.
That being said, there has been no greater teacher and guide to the herbal universe for me than my girlfriend, a practicing herbalist. We live together and through her daily rituals, cooking, tea making, and our conversations I have enjoyed 3-year crash course in herbalism.
It is from this perspective that I would like to present to you here on the Herbstalk blog, an ongoing series that I have lovingly entitled “Living with an Herbalist.”
I hope that my stories and observations will provide some insight, comfort and laughter to those who know, live with, and/or love an herbalist or herbalist-in-training. As you read some of my anecdotes, lists, realizations, etc., I hope that they may spark a story to share of your own.
a typical scene on the kitchen table
Part I: “Don’t Touch My Herbs”
First rule of Fight Club is “Don’t talk aboutFight Club.” The first rule of living with an herbalist is “Don’t touch my herbs.” I know – it seems a little harsh but it is a golden rule to live by – no, survive by – when living with an herbalist. In any given day, at any given time there may be a new something bubbling, boiling, sitting, seeping, straining, or drying on your kitchen counter, stove top, or next to the sink.
As someone who tries to keep the homestead nice and tidy, it is very tempting to clean and compost all the variety of plant materials accumulating around the kitchen. In one, typical instance I once encountered what seemed to be two-day old tea mixture sitting soggy in a pan on the stovetop. In a quick couple of motions I had the pan in my hands and the tea remains into our compost container. It was a swift, noble attempt to get rid of clutter, or so I thought… Wrong!
a typical scene on the stovetop
No sooner did the saturated herbs enter the compost bin did my girlfriend appear in the kitchen in search of the said herbs in order to reapply water and regenerate her tea concoction. “Where are my herbs?…” she inquired. And with my hands still in the compost pail, she knew the travesty that had just occurred. “Hey! Please don’t touch my herbs. Never touch my herbs before asking…”
It was another good deed gone awry but in my guilt I learned something that fateful day. As all good herbalists will say, there are many ways to tease out the good, nurturing essence of every plant part. Herbal work does not have to be allotted a given time frame; it is at the mercy of the plant itself and what energy it holds. As someone who prides himself on eating everything on his plate, wearing out his clothes into rags, and in general avoiding waste at all cost, I too should keep in mind the enduring power and use of herbs – dried, wet, or otherwise.
I also learned that when living with an herbalist and you see something in the kitchen, say something. Simply ask, “Are you still working with these herbs?” Chances are that those herbs have something left in ‘em after all.