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…

The Herbs in Spain Grow Mainly on the Plain

Many times when I walk through the nearby woods, I marvel at all the plants hiding under rotting logs and peeking out from the boulders. These plants, sharing the same earth and respiring the same air as we do, live and die nameless to most of us. How far away we’ve traveled from the days…

Of Herbs and Other Country Messes

When the  sage comes to life again, after its long, lonely slumber in the freezing winter, I always just stop for a moment and marvel. How could this happen? Left outside the kitchen door, the sage bows before the relentless blasts of icy winds and heavy snow. Its leaves and branches shrivel to skeletal silhouettes,…

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…

Aleing Herbs: Costmary

Ale making in medieval and Renaissance England depended upon a number of herbal flavorings, especially before hops became the predominant taste. While doing a bit of research for another project, I came upon many mentions of Costmary, hence today’s post. An aleing herb (and a medicinal one, too), Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita, also Chrysanthemum balsamita), a…

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…