Herbs, food and the yum factor

Herbs, food and the yum factor

The allure behind herbs begins at the dinner table for most — it sure did for me as an Italian-American. Of course, it doesn’t stop there.

Throughout Medicine Box’s Nevada County home, unique herbs abound that can both prolong your life and enhance your meals. Bringing these regional treasures to a wider audience has been one of the greatest rewards that have come from starting Medicine Box. It shows me that in order to find healing, you often need go no further than one’s own backyard.

Frequent readers of this blog will recall frequent discussions of my mother’s herb garden, which perhaps served as the initial model for what would become the Medicine Box. In addition to staple veggies like tomatoes, salad greens, green beans and rappis, she also grew oregano, dill, mint and basil, which to this day is my favorite herb. She would often infuse basil into our tomato sauce and the dill into our pickles – both of which I looked forward to eating. My mother’s herb cabinet was like a carpenter’s workbench, and just like an awl or a hammer, my mother could reach into it and turn whatever sort of dish she was making into something artful with the skillful application of her homegrown tools.

Nowadays, I apply those same techniques using herbs from my chosen home here in Nevada County, and I also use Equanimity as a sort of spiritual condiment for select preparations — including a daily smoothie which I’ll share in this blog post. Truth be told, I’m not using them any differently than my mom did back in the day. Without the mental and physical nourishment and enjoyment these herbs provide, life would have been far more difficult. And the more I learn about them, I find the better life becomes.

The herbarium of Nevada County

Like most of California, Nevada County sits within the California Floristic Province, a unique climatic designation which indicates a large number of endemic species. In other words, many of the plants and herbs that grow here simply can’t grow anywhere else. Particularly abundant in the region are manzanita trees, one of my favorite recent discoveries. There are about 40 different species in California, ranging from the shoreline to about 10,000 feet elevation.  The berries in particular become ripe around late July/early August and are perfect as natural sweeteners and cider. Oh, and they have three times as many antioxidants as blueberries and pomegranates. 

In addition, we have plenty of other herbs that find their way into my herb box, including lavender, mint, oregano, sage, lemon balm, chamomile and basil. Mint grew wild near one of Medicine Box’s old grow sites, and my dog Phoenix will occasionally chomp on some mint when we go out for a walk, too. As you’ll note, many of these herbs were also grown in the Chaplin family garden as well, and their continued presence in my life provides its own sort of heart medicine for me out here in another floristic province. Endemic or not, herbs carry their own sweet flavor and utility throughout space and time. I like to think that with my work, I’m returning the favor.

My not-so-nutty almond shake

I find that in order to keep in peak mental health, some natural supplementation is necessary. Part of this maintenance comes in the form of my not-so-nutty almond milkshake, a brain booster and health supplement which consists of

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 8 oz. unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon of Organifi green juice powder
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons plain greek yoghurt
  • 4 oz. of Tahoe tap water
  • 2.5 mg. (quarter dropper) of Equanimity

Each one of these ingredients adds something important to the mix: the avocado may seem like an odd choice, but it’s loaded with lots of healthy fats and vitamin B, and like bananas they also have lots of potassium, which helps in regulating the nervous system. Almond milk is low in sugar but also good moderate sources of protein and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids — another boost for brain health. The chia seeds also supply complete protein and omega-3s, which supply the building blocks for the amino acid precursors to serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters in the brain. The Organifi green juice powder contains 11 superfoods which assist in regulating stress, appetite and mood. The yogurt thickens the beverage, but it also supplies more protein as well as vitamin B-12, which helps the body convert amino acids into serotonin. And last but not least, some Equanimity, to soothe and calm the mind. 

Now as you’ll note, there’s not a whole lot of Equanimity in the mix here. That’s a hallmark of Mindful Consumption. We at Medicine Box maintain that a smaller amount of hemp and herbal ingredients, taken more frequently during the day, is much more effective than higher doses of single compounds (and especially any other medications). While the dosage may vary depending on your own unique ECS signature, it is always important to keep this in mind.

Feasting on the future

Of course, most of you who subscribe to our mailing list have already received the Altered Plates Watermelon Granita recipe. AP’s brother-sister founders Holden and Rachel Jagger, are favored collaborators of Medicine Box, and next year, we’ll be working with vegan chef Jason Wrobel, star of the Cooking Channel’s How to Live to Be 100. Like me, these collaborators see how diet and plant-based wellness all share one goal in common: happier and healthier humans. It all heralds a return to our primordial connection to Nature, as far as Medicine Box sees it, one that for many will seem scary and threatening as deep historical wounds are exposed and confronted. But it is a necessary crucible for us to pass through in order to embrace greater health and happiness. And as I said before, that happiness can start in your own backyard, with the plants growing from your own garden that you consume in your food. Once that’s been fully digested, you’re never really the same again.

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