Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"FOOD" For Thought...by Jim Terry

Spring is in the air and it’s always nice to see the snow retreat from the valleys to the highest peaks of the mountains.  I also enjoy seeing tulips emerge from a snowdrift on the north side of a home.  Or what about the appearance of green sprigs of grass that start to show up among the brown and the dead from the winter months giving you that glimmer of hope that warm days are just ahead? 

Just the other day I was out enjoying the sunshine and trimming trees and shrubs that had become a bit overgrown from our short winters we have here in California.  I got out the pruners, the air blower, and the electric hedge trimmer and started the work that needed to be done.  

First project…a tree that has some amazing red flowers on it that bloom for about six to eight weeks each spring.  I love the look of the tree and am still learning plants native to the region of the Bay Area, but this tree is really a huge MESS!  For six to eight weeks each spring, this tree continuously drops HUGE RED FLOWERS.  I can clean up all the flowers the day before and then in the morning, I will go back outside to leave for work and it will appear as though I have done absolutely nothing.  The worst part of these flowers on the ground though is if you accidentally step on them or run over them on your way to work, the red that makes the flower’s pedals so RED and VIBRANT becomes a gooey dye that also stains your pavement for weeks afterwards. I would say "YEARS" afterwards but I have not been in this home long enough yet. It really is something to behold.

After finishing up with the tree, I then moved onto another area in my yard that has some other trees and several small bushes.  As I began to trim one of these bushes, I was overwhelmed with a fragrance I have known before.  I had to think for a minute but it finally came to me… this fragrance is none other than one of the most common spices…Rosemary. 

I then thought how “awesome” it would be to have my own fresh spice instead of paying close to $10 for a small bottle of Rosemary. I started to do some research on how to dry the plant and was amazed to find out much more about the many uses and the history of this particular spice.   

“Rosemary is an herb that is native to the Mediterranean. The Romans called it ‘sea dew’ after the habit of growing it by the seashore, but it was later changed to the Rose of Mary, in honor of the Virgin Mary…. In Spanish lore, Rosemary blossoms were white in the beginning, but turned a beautiful blue color after the Virgin Mary spread her cloak over a Rosemary shrub to hide from the Romans who were searching for the Holy Family as they fled Egypt…Rosemary was also carried by mourners during funerals and tossed into the graves of the deceased as a sign of remembrance. During weddings Rosemary was worn by bridal couples as a sign of fidelity and couples dipped branches of rosemary tied with ribbon into gold and gave the sprigs as wedding gifts to the guests as a sign of love and faithfulness. Rosemary oil is a primary ingredient in Hungary Water, which has been attributed of restoring Queen Elizabeth of Hungary's paralyzed legs. Anne of Cleves is said to have worn a wreath of Rosemary when she married King Henry VIII. During the Plague in the 15th century, hospitals and commoners burned Rosemary and wore little pouches of the herb around their necks as they traveled to breathe through to help protect them from the spread of the disease. In France, hospitals burned both rosemary and juniper to help keep the spread of infection in check.”

In addition to what was mentioned above the medicinal evidence is endless…

-Did you know that Rosemary oils have antibacterial and antifungal properties? During World War II, European countries dressed wounds with the oils of Rosemary, which did control bacterial infections --including foot rot --which was common for troops in the trenches.

-Rosemary has long been prized as an herb that increases memory. Greek students wore wreaths of Rosemary to help them during exams to keep their heads clear and their memory sharp. Some current research is also confirming this fact.

-Studies also have shown that Rosemary oil increases circulation to reduce headaches and pains. 

-If the oil is mixed in a tea, it can help with sore throats and gingivitis. 

-In one study, it even showed that Rosemary caused inhibition to the progression and development of cancer cells at an efficacy of 87%. 

-Also adding a few drops of this oil into a steamer have been known to clear up sinus problems and have eased cold symptoms.

-Lastly researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have discovered that even a .02% solution is a more effective food preservative than BHA and BHT with NO chemical side effects? …I would definitely say its ability to preserve is true.  Did you know that Rosemary has also been identified as some of the artifacts found in the ancient Egyptian tombs?

So the next time you see a simple plant in your garden, think twice about what it may or may not do for you.  I guess I need to do some more research on my tree that drops those “DARN” red flowers that continually plague me in the spring as they fall to the ground.  Who knows…maybe, just maybe, the dyes in these flowers that stain my pavement could be the next best “thing” to hit the market as an all-natural anti-wrinkle cream, an antibiotic to accelerate healing, an agent to cure leg paralysis or could even become an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph and be preserved in the tombs with Rosemary? ...or on my DRIVEWAY!