By Alix Norman
CyHerbia is a haven, a perfect slice of the Mediterranean wreathed in lavender and cypress. In summer, it’s an oasis of calm punctuated only by the buzzing of bees that lose and find themselves in the hedged maze. But in winter, it’s an aromatic paradise: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme mingling with pine, myrtle and mastic, bay laurel and rose. And, during these colder months, there’s always something going on… a wreath-making workshop, a family fun day, lectures and workshops, tea tastings and treasure hunts. You can even watch essential oils being distilled right on the premises, or just sit peacefully in the quiet gardens and contemplate the beauty of nature. And as well as the seasonal happenings, it seems the owners and founders – the Tringis family – are always busy with monthly events.
One of which is coming up this weekend: What Grows on Your Doorstep.
“Every month we focus on a particular herb or pair of herbs,” says Miranda Tringis, writer and well-known herbalist. “There’s always something that people can participate in: this is what I find so important and so much fun as well, to get hands on experience. If we’re looking at a herb that contains essential oils we’ll do a distraction and distillation so people can see it and smell it up close. We offer workshops– sometimes a creative workshop such as making a wreath, or Christmas decorations with spices, or a cooking workshop – and give talks on the herb in question.”
Practically all of which will be happening this coming weekend, when CyHerbia will be looking at what you can do with the plants that grow right on your doorstep: wild mustard, mallow, thistles, wild spinach, chard and – in particular – nettle. “One of my specialities,” says Miranda, “is nettle soup. It’s a mini pharmacy in a bowl, strengthening and nourishing the entire body. It’s my favourite medicine, and interestingly enough, you’ll always see it growing next to mallow – which soothes the sting.”
This idea of cooperative flora, she explains, is a global phenomenon, and one which is highly valuable to us humans: “Creation all makes sense. And as we ourselves are a part of our local ecosystem, it’s the herbs within our own environment that are the most beneficial to us.” Along with a talk about the herbs at 11.30 on both Saturday and Sunday morning, Miranda will also be looking at how to identify the plants. “We’ll be learning about how to pick and choose the right herbs from the fields, as well as familiarising ourselves with how to process them – so they retain the maximum amount of nutrients – and how to cook them. And we’ll be able to taste foods that have been made using these plants,” she adds, “touching, smelling and tasting the actual herbs; this is how I like to work all the time – using the senses.”
It’s a tradition, she says, that has been almost lost over the years. “One of the reasons I’m doing this is because I like to go back to the roots of Cypriot and Mediterranean tradition: relying on what nature yielded and feeding oneself according to the season. The people who are now in their seventies and eighties will know this: they would have done a lot of foraging in the fields in their youth, feeding themselves with whatever was available at that time of year. And in those days, as the island became greener after the first rains, folks would go out and collect these wild herbs to use in their cooking.
“Not many people realise that if the worst came to the worst we could survive in Cyprus with what grows on the island. And this is also the secret to good health: eating what’s in season and what’s clean, plants that haven’t been sprayed. And the herbs out in the fields are the cleanest and most powerful of all – the concentration of their essential oils is the strongest.” Which is why we should all, for our own good health, look no further than the herbs that grow, literally, on our doorsteps. So go and find out all about them this weekend. Down at the little slice of heaven that is CyHerbia.
What Grows On Your Doorstep
Weekend at CyHerbia on January 24 and 25. There will be a talk and a herbal tea tasting (both are free; only the normal CyHerbia entrance fee of €5 for adults / €3 for children / free for under-fives applies) and a cooking workshop at a cost of €10. For more information, call Miranda on 99 915543, email [email protected] or visit www.cyherbia.com or the Facebook page CyHerbia.