Last weekend I was honored to participate in the Northeast Radical Healthcare Network’s revival gathering (Radherb for short) at Farmacy in Greenwich, RI. Hosted by Mary Blue and her dedicated crew, it was a rich ferment of like-minded, yet diverse folks having important and difficult conversations about health justice, sustainability, and cultural competence in their many guises. There was great local food, plant walks and plenty of community building. I was proud of the incredible crew of students from VCIH that came to represent with their super-smarts (and killer moves at the after-hours dance party). And, I was inspired and heartened by everyone’s creativity and tenacity in addressing the hard issues that arise from working in marginalized communities, using a marginalized medicine.
Through projects of every shape and size, folks are carrying on not just the medicine of the plants, but also the medicines of solidarity and liberation. Yes, the plants are what we fight for–making and keeping them accessible to everyone, protecting them where they thrive, and seeding them where they don’t. But we’re fighting, too, for institutional and social change, from the government on down to each individual. We’re starting with ourselves, looking at privilege and assumptions, at the roots of power and how to use our own in service.
It’s no small thing that we have the plants to guide and support us. We need them now, as ever, to keep our spirits up, our batteries charged, our resistance strong. And they offer this aid and more, physically and less tangibly, too. In so many ways, they give us what we need to carry on. I always come back to this–to the plants’ generosity and to my gratefulness. I saw the same appreciation in everyone I met over the weekend and I think that’s really what we have most in common. Deep and lasting gratitude.
Thank you, plants, for sticking with us, feeding us, shaping us to survive and thrive on this beautiful planet. Thank you for being the web that connects me to all of these strong and inspiring people. Thank you for giving me this worthy work.
And thanks to each of you at the gathering who came to listen to my ramblings about the plants I so love. Here’s the violet syrup recipe I promised on the plant walk. Use it in good health and full spirits.
(a good one from food.com)
equal volumes violet flowers and water (some prefer to use distilled water) (to make 2 quarts syrup, use 4 cups violets and 4 cups water)
white, organic sugar, double or just 1.5 times the amount of water (use 6 cups for above example)
lemon juice (juice of one lemon for above proportions)
1. Pick violets from an unsprayed and unpeed-on yard. Purple will be best for the magical purple color, but a few white ones are lovely, too.
2. Pour boiling water over fresh violets. Infuse (let sit) for 24 hours.
4. Put sugar, water (really tea) and lemon juice in saucepan and boil for 10 minutes (don’t forget to be amazed as the murky violet water turns magically amethyst).
5. Pour into sterile jars. Can or refrigerate to preserve.
This was traditionally used as a cough syrup, and though it probably won’t hurt to make other things more palatable (I’m talking to you, elecampane), it’s likely not going to do the whole job on a cough and may be a little heavy on the sugar. This is really just a delightfully stunning violet purple simple syrup with a very faint violety flavor. Imagine the fancy cocktails you could use it to make–anything that calls for simple syrup. I like it with sparkling water over ice cubes that have had borage flowers frozen into them–or more violet flowers! This is a lovely summery accompaniment to lavender shortbreads or lemon verbena tea cakes. Best served to your closest herbal friends who will appreciate the effort. Or, to someone you are wooing into the plant-love clan. This is a sure-fire attention-getter.
Enjoy and don’t forget to share some with the violet faeries. They lack saucepans and lemons and really enjoy a good tea cake.