My garden and spirituality seminar is only 3 days away, the irises are in full bloom, and the garden has never looked better. It looks as though we will have beautiful weather for exploring the garden and the many ways in which God’s story is revealed in and through it. Not surprisingly my reading this week has revolved around the garden and particularly the herb garden that fragrant corner that is a delight to weed and water because every time I even brush against the rosemary or Thyme or oregano I come away surrounded by the fragrance that lingers long after I have come inside …. and that is a beautiful spiritual analogy if ever I heard one- every time I brush against God I come away surrounded by the fragrance of God’s presence too and it lingers even longer than the fragrance of my herbs.
The most intriguing book I have read this week is 75 Exceptional Herbs for Your Garden, by Jack Staub. I was delighted by Staub’s recounting of the history of the herbs I grow and the ways they have been used, often for thousands of years to flavour food and heal illnesses.
Then I came to the chapter on Stevia. As I read the story of how this herb which is 10 times sweeter than sugar, easy to grow and with virtually no calories was banned from the American market about the same time that Monsanto introduced its artificial sweetener aspartame because an “anonymous firm” lodged a complaint with the FDA, I felt, as Staub comments “This is a herb that makes me boil.”
There are so many ways in which our food choices are manipulated by unjust laws and the interests of big business and we are not even aware of it. There are other ways in which we are manipulated by fashion in the garden that are detrimental to our health. Believe it or not nature’s richest source of cancer-fighting beta-carotene is the dandelion which we all so diligently pull out of our lawns. Staub documents that it also contains impressive amounts of vitamins D, B and C, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper and phosphorus. He goes on to say:
All this makes the dandelion as good as it gets for you: the sap, leaves, and root extracts are all recommended as diuretics, and aid digestion, stimulate bile production, treat liver disorders and help prevent cancer and high blood pressure, while the root is considered a powerful detoxifier, acelerating the removal of adverse elements for the body. Interestingly, while most diuretics leach potassium from the body, the dandelion leaves a generous amount behind, and the dandelion’s milky sap may also be used externally to heal wounds, remove warts and soothe bee stings.
I believe God intended the garden to provide all that we need for health and nutrition so it doesn’t surprise me that the humble dandelion is so good for us. And in Europe it is often added to salads or steamed and even used as a substitute for coffee. However it is not a very marketable herb – after all who would be willing to spend big bucks for a few dandelion leaves that they could pull out of their backyard? Maybe I am a little cynical but I do think that our food and nutrition choices are highly manipulated by the marketers of the global economy – and they definitely don’t always have our best interests at heart.