Words can be fertile ground…(a garden fairy tale come true.)

Some of you will remember a post about my friend Marion.   Marion and I were planting a medicinal herb garden at her home in Piedmont, CA this spring when she passed away suddenly.  This was a very sad happening, and her family wondered what to do with the herbs that she had planted.  There was much consternation, and then her husband Zafiris said the magical words “Take them away.  I don’t know what to do with such things.”  Really?!?  (Tears watered the soil beneath Marion’s oak tree.)

And so I bravely dug those happy plants out of their home dirt, and ferried them across the Bay Bridge to land in their new location–an under-utilized garden in the Inner Richmond.   A vast landscape of quick-draining soil, amended with homemade compost.   Hip hop music blasting in the background.  Old relics of the past garden lying around.  Woodchips from the trees that used to stand on site.  In other words, a blank canvas, a new beginning.

Forgive for a moment a narrator’s interruption:  I want to be clear.  I’m not the hero of this story.  I’m just the dopey sidekick.  The plants are the brains.  And despite all the unpredictable variables of their new destiny, and in spite of the gardener within that keeps saying “we’ll see…” they are looking really good!  Like sticks of a plant, with brand new basal growth where dirt meets aerial parts!  New growth!

And this gardener is so happy I could spit.  Honestly.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time:  sunny San Francisco location meets herbal medicinals.  An herb garden of my own!  To share with others, eventually.  First we’ve got some growing to do.

Sticks and stones get moved around to host Solidago, and Chamomile, Blue Vervain, and a ton of Grindelia…

Take a peek.  It may not look like much, but come next Spring and Summer, these baby plants will be usefully engaged in soothing your sore throats, calming your fried nerves, and pepping up your tired bones.

For now they look like sticks among the stones.  We are moving toward the winter solstice.  It’s cold and dark, it’s raining.  But eventually the rains will stop.  And then the plants will be lush.  And I’ll pick some of their leaves, and make you a tea.   See?

A deep thank you to Mary and Ted

 

Ambiguous...

Help.  I really want to like this tea.

I have enjoyed other delicious blends by Organic India whose focus is Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) infusions.  Perhaps now is the right time to give a shout out to my favorite one called Sweet Rose Tulsi Tea…it’s REALLY GOOD.

But back to the Jasmine Tulsi…

Let’s talk about the main ingredient of this tea.  Tulsi or Holy Basil is first and foremost a sacred medicinal plant.  I really could yarn on about this plant, but the important take home points are as follows:  Tulsi is a major stress reducing, immune system regulating, antioxidant, neuroprotective plant.  It also has numerous digestive health benefits, it’s antibacterial, and stimulates milk production in lactating women.  And the list goes on…(really.)

A brief history:

Tulsi (a Hindi word) is used daily by many people throughout Southern Asia, especially Southern India. Holy basil is sacred to the Hindi god Vishnu, and purported to balance the chakras. The stems of the plants are made into beads for use in meditation practice to give clarity and protection.  It is acclaimed  as possessing sattva (energy of purity), “capable of bringing on goodness, virtue, and joy in humans” (Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, D. Winston and S. Maimes.)

You all want a cup, huh?

Tulsi’s flavor nature is sweet and spicy.  Standing alone in water it is strongly aromatic.  As you might expect with the presence of the aromatics, it has a slightly allspice-ish clove-ish mouth numbing tingle, but somehow still manages to be delicately earthy and sweet.  It’s a balanced, complex taste, and smelling it  not only reminds me of many things, it always makes me feel better.   For instance, my brain goes to this place:  Nighttime with only the darkness and the stars, dew, bliss, the smell of (friendly) wild things… It’s a cross between walking barefoot through my childhood garden and smoking my third or fourth cigarette…and then realizing I don’t need to smoke cigs to deal with my angst-ish feelings…I’m six, then I’m 18, and the memories keep tumbling but somehow emotionally resolve…

I know it sounds outlandish, but it’s one of those plants that can transport you somewhere else.   It’s  a complex plant for a complex world.  I’ve got great expectations…

I want to cross the word "Jasmine" off this package...

So like I said earlier, I really want to like this tea, but what’s really bugging me is that I can’t smell or taste the jasmine. (And that’s the title of the tea.)

I think the problem is the Anise is too strong…I get the bitter of the chamomile, especially after a longer steeping (5 minutes plus).   I try an overnight cold infusion, which yields a slightly more refreshing cup, but still can’t find the Jasmine.  I try short hot infusions–no James Brown.

I check myself for a moment:  am I looking for that JB hip pop Jasmine taste and smell I get from my favorite green Jasmine tea?  If so, is that realistic?  This tea does smell nice and taste nice too…it’s not that it’s a bad tea…

I suspect the anise was probably added to sweeten this blend a bit, but it’s too heavy.  It completely masks the Jasmine, and I am simply sad.  I honestly think they would have had a better blend if they had left it out altogether.  Either that or just PLEASE RENAME the tea.  It’s not Jasmine Tulsi tea, it’s Anise Tulsi tea.  Or something kindred.

Try the Sweet Rose Tulsi tea instead…