follow A Selection of Varied Topics

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

my bookshelf, and the herbal teas I drink

Ah-ha! I haven't posted in a while! I've been keeping up with everybody, though. ;)

I got into a rather heated online debate; I discovered this site,, and got quite het up over Eowyn's reputation being put into doubt. Know first off that Eowyn is one of my favorite characters from Lord of the Rings, and I and several of my friends rather dislike Arwen/Liv Tyler, at least in the movies. I came into the blog's comments section with an indignant bounce. You can check out the excitement here and here. In retrospect, I probably got overly upset!

Now let's move on to a more soothing subject: plants. And in particular herbs.

I love plants. Herbs, trees, vegetables, flowers. The way they look, the way they smell, the way they taste. I've been able to identify wild plants for as long as I can remember; we have a video, I believe, of me when I was about 3 years old, going around saying "This is an onion...a dandelion...(etc.)" Once a few years back I was in a park with some friends, and we were walking and I spotted a COPPER BEECH TREE, and was totally freaking out with excitement because you hardly ever see beech trees here, and they're so pretty!
When we got to England two years ago, well, I recall the bus ride from the airport to our town, and being so thrilled at seeing all the British vegetation by the side of the road.
A year or two ago I became positively obsessed with finding out exactly what species of wild yellow iris grew in the Gladden Fields. (It's Iris pseudacorus, btw--you wanted to know that, you know you did!)
Anyway, suffice it to say that I love plants.

Favorite medicinal herbs: too many to name.
Sage; and mint; ginger; pennyroyal (more on that later); mugwort of course; yarrow; lemon balm mint; anything in the mint family, basically.

I've got quite a few herb books; but stay, let's detour into my bookshelf. Downstairs, by my desk--the less-read fiction books are upstairs. We have more books in our house than anyone I know.
Yes: One shelf of fiction and one of non-fic. Redwall books (I have practically the entire series, including an autographed one I bought at a booksigning by the author); Lord of the Rings, two editions. I've got one edition that my dad bought in the 70's, in Texas. And two or three companion LotR sorts of books, Letters of Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, Book of Lost Tales I and II, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, movie guides and behind-the-scenes, The Tale of the Children of Hurin, and quite a few other Tolkien things.

The Shakespeare Stealer trilogy--historical fiction. Jane Eyre; James Herriot's Dog Stories; Great Expectations (I AM going to read it, really!); Watership Down, Tales from Watership Down, The Plague Dogs (by the same author); a selection of Agatha Christie mysteries; a lot of Rosemary Sutcliff hist. fic. ; That Hideous Strength, by CS Lewis; The Man who was Thursday, by GK Chesterton; some westerns; The Irish R. M. (hilarious, and very lucid); probably a mushy Louisa May Alcott or two; and my dad's and my collection of antique Pogo Possum comic books.

We move into non-fiction. We start out with a bang with 5 herb books: general things, women's health, Indian herbology, how to grow. On to self-sufficiency: various manuals from the 70s including the splendid First Time Farmer's Guide, and survival (The Worst-case Scenario handbook), and a few others. Livestock: Guides to raising chickens, goats (I used to read those for FUN!! I am not kidding.), Natural Goat Care, Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, which ties everything together and brings us back to what I started out to talk about: herbs!

I've been doing herb teas since I was about 12, more or less. That was also when I started getting "political"--which I use as a collective term for various general opinions and thoughts classified in my head under keywords as follows:
organic, Monsanto, Ron Paul, The Presidensity, food, farms, feedlots, alternative medicine, methylparaben in shampoo, preparedness, Campaign for Liberty, the Constitution, survivalism, doomsteading, Countryside magazine, vaccinations, 2nd Amendment rights, and other hot topics which most people would not call politics at all!

My sometimes unconventional views have resulted in some interesting discussions with my friends, particularly at sleep-overs--we mostly stay awake talking about world politics, conservatism, and our favorite foods, and of course catching up on celebrity gossip (i.e., our favorite actors and actresses in Lord of the Rings and Narnia), and have usually solved all the world's problems by day-light!

Right---tea---! I am not getting off topic!
So anyway, pennyroyal. It's considered toxic nowadays, because many years ago a woman wanted to have an abortion the "natural" way and drank several ounces of pennyroyal essential oil. She died. Essential oil is the very last thing to drink a large quantity of, I think even mint oil would make you deathly sick.

I believe this is just about the only case of recorded toxicity of pennyroyal, but nevertheless it got on the bad list. I've read enough about it to feel informed. I've drunk pennyroyal tea on occasion, for cramps or colds or such. Even I have shyed off recently though. You don't want to mess with your liver. But oh the fragrance!!!

Mugwort is related to wormwood. It's very bitter but I love the taste, and the smell just takes me back to holidays in the mountains. And it's supposed to promote dreaming, as I've said before. I've also heard it can make you sleep less deeply, which is not so awesome.

In early spring (about February, here) I'll go out and hunt up the first green stuffs, mint and green-house sage and plantain, and lemon balm sprouts and make a bright green tea. This often coincides with the beginning of dandelion season (I love dandelions!), and I eat dandy greens and poached eggs from my own hens, and I really feel good.

This post has turned out to be less about herbs and more about general life! Which is the way my conversations go, pretty much. Here on Dandelion Farm, as I like to call our little corner of the Pacific North-West.


Danzibar said...

hmmm...this blog is fun! All about LOR and Herb teas, some of my particularly favorite topics...although I will confess I don't have any companion guides to LOR...just the books and movies. ;)

Speaking of "mints of all kinds" and lemon balm they are practically taking over our yard back here. The peppermint and chocolate mint like the climate so much that they are killing our grass and growing out into our yard in invading waves of dark green. Pretty much everywhere I've ever dumped dirt that was relatively close to the mint in my landscaping a new patch of it appears the next's almost as bad as bermuda grass...TN's Weed from hell. haha! One time we built a rock wall on top of a few sprouts of peppermint and it wormed its way through about 3 feet of stacked rocks and came out the top...when we tore it up we found the stems were like 5-6 feet we have a huge patch all around that wall.

we also have a lot of Lemon Balm and just recently a lot of Bee Balm...aka Oswego Tea...

Marshmallow, Thyme, Sage, Echinacea, Fennel, Rosemary, Tarragon, Oregano, Jerusalem Artichoke, asparagus, Lavender, St. John's Wort, Yarrow, Cilantro, Comfrey, and we used to have reseeding parsley too but it was wiped out last year by the drought and freeze...something did it at least.

By the way, speaking of visiting plant beds in February...awesomeness! I absolutely love finding the first sprouts and identifying them...

Bethany said...

Glad you like it! ;)
Yes, mint is the very dickens. One of my friends says it has a square-root system, lol! There's a wild marjoram/oregano thing that pops up everywhere and is a bit of a nuisance...but fortunately the goats like to eat it!

Ahhhh, bermuda of those things which I've read disparaging things about, in gardening books, but thankfully we don't have it here...bindweed is terrible, though! You know, little white morning-glory type flowers. Evidently many years back, before I was really on the scene haha, my mom thought it "would look so pretty" and imported it...argh! It's ghastly!

We've got most of those herbs you mentioned except marshmallow and tarragon. I believe St. John's Wort is considered a noxious weed on the West Coast!
Oh I love Bee Balm! It smells so good. We bought some last year at a plant sale, but it managed to get dehydrated a few times before ever leaving its pot so it sort of died...haha...that happens ocasionally!
I put in Jerusalem artichokes last year and they simply thrived (throve?)...I harvested the vast quantities of roots in the fall, and could have sworn I got them all, but they popped up again this year.
I remember a few years back in the early spring I was feeling in great need of a tonic, and sometimes for breakfast I'd have homegrown lettuce, dandelion greens, and lots of nice frech juicy sage leaves--which created some inetresting conversations, as I was in a homeschool co-op group at the time and was not shy about saying what I'd had for breakfast lol.

Elizabeth J. said...

I can tell you really love to write!=)