With Time and Frost, Things Fall Apart

Fall can be a bittersweet time, a time to look forward to cool-crisp nights, hearty meat-and root-vegetable stews, and the smell of burning leaves, that is, you’re allowed to burn them where you live. On the other hand, the coming of fall and frost signifies the end of the growing season, and the beginning of…

Lavender, France’s Balm for the Soul

The lavender lingers on my sloping hillside, autumn rain running in rivulets between the dying leaves. At summer’s peak, the purple flowers tantalized the bees and butterflies and me, the glorious scent perfuming the air of evening and morning both. No lambs frolicked in the lavender this year, but maybe someday a friend’s weanlings will…

Sour and Bitter Blended in the Soup of Wu:* Very Early Chinese Herbals

For years, I’ve been carting around a number of books about Chinese medicine and food, fascinated by the ancient linkage of food with medicine (similar in some regards to the Ayurvedic system of India). As you can imagine, getting down to the bone on this matter is not an easy proposition, given the lack of…

Lavender Fields Forever

No smell of cow patties flitted through the air, thank goodness. After all, just before lunch who wants to contemplate biting into a sandwich perfumed with the stench of manure? We  stood on the knoll about the Maison Beliveau and watched the black-furred cattle, including two hefty bulls, running down the hill, hell-bent on cozying…

John Evelyn: Cook, Or, the 17th C. Man Who Would Be a Locavore

Omnia explorate; meliora retinete (Explore everything; keep the best.) ~~ Evelyn family motto Somehow, and how I wish it were so, it would be nice to time-travel, to sit at table with the people I’m meeting through their words, written by long-dead hands with quill pens and India ink. One of my new “acquaintances,” if…

The Gift of the Bees: Mead

With a small tweak of the imagination, it’s not hard to see the scenario:  a little rain and some honey accidentally left in a hollowed-out piece of wood. For our early ancestors, it was — once tasted — a seemingly divine elixir. And no cooking required. In other words, mead, the first fermented drink. And…

The Random Herbalist: The Church as Farmer

The Catholic Church influenced many things, even (especially?) agriculture, as this passage from History of the English Landed Interest: Its Customs, Laws, and Agriculture, by Russell Montague Garnier (1908) 2nd. ed, vol. 1, implies. The monastery libraries also held much treasure, opening up the monks to the wonders of old knowledge and enabling them to…