In the previous blog I wrote about several wonders of the Croatian Adriatic as captured by The Lady of the Sea novel. In this blog, I would like to focus on one of these wonders: Medicinal and culinary herbs. More specifically, I’d like to focus on two of my all time favorites, which also feature heavily in the novel: Sage and Lavender!
When I was writing The Lady of the Sea, in which one of the main characters, Grandma Antica, is an herbalist, I got totally immersed in the world of plants. I found a fabulous reference book, which covers 250 most common plants of the Croatian Adriatic coast and islands (Kovačić et al. 2008) and I got lost in the world of plants!
Obtaining the book is a story in itself as I dropped it into the sea, fresh from the bookstore. I was carrying one too many a bag across the plank to my sailing boat, Adria Brava, and the one that was too many turned out to be the one with the book in it. It slipped out of my hand and ended up on the bottom of a dirty port. I fished the book out, but it was ruined. Not even my valiant efforts with paper towels between its soaked leaves could save it. In the end, my husband bought me another one, making this likely the most expensive book I ever owned. But it was so worth it!
At any rate, the book is in Croatian, but still has all the fabulous pictures and names and can be used to identify plants, much as I was doing during those amazing months while I wrote The Lady. I hiked all over the islands, carrying this heavy tom, to identify and learn about what I was seeing. Immersing myself in this world of plants was an extraordinary experience.
So, this is what the fabulous reference book has to say about sage and lavender:
Sage – Salvia officinalis L.
Short bush with wonderfully scented, thick and silvery-green leaves. It flowers from April till May with many pink-violet flowers bundled in an ear-like fashion. It grows naturally in the Mediterranean, requires a lot of light, but does well in lower temperatures and dry air. There are about 900 species of Salvia but Salvia officinalis is the one with the longest list of possible uses as a medicinal plant. In Latin salvare means to save.
Salvia officinalis has been known to treat a wide range of ailments of the respiratory, cardio-vascular, digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems, and for healing various skin infections. It is no wonder that traditionally, it has been known as a medicine for every ailment, and that there is an old Italian proverb saying: “Can a man grow old in whose garden sage grows?” An interesting fact is that in the 17th century Chinese paid three chests of finest green tea for one chest of sage.
I adore this plant. And not so much for its impressive resume, but for its scent! It never fails to move me deeply, which is the reason why it has such an important place in The Lady of the Sea.
Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia Miller
A very aromatic, woody bush that can grow up to 1 meter in height. Leaves are 2-4 cm long, green with a bluish sheen and white-grayish fuzz. Small lilac-colored flowers, forming a cylinder of many close-knit flowers, bloom from June to August. It loves rocky habitat, can grow next to a path or in a field, as part of wild macchia, or cultivated. It is a hardy plant and can actually survive colder temperatures, so could be grown in temperate climate with protection during the winter. Its primary habitat is the Mediterranean. Its essential oil is these days extensively used in cosmetics, and aromatherapy, as a relaxant. Its name comes from Latin lavo which means to wash, because it has been used since the ancient times to make soap, add to baths, and use as a disinfectant. A few drops to the water to wash floor will make the whole space refreshed. My book also states that the same water-lavender essential oil mixture can be used to polish furniture. Who knew? And of course, dried leaves in small cotton bags keep your clothes fresh and moth-free.
How cool is this plant? Yay for lavender!
I am in ever-deepening love with our fabulous, amazing natural world!
Kovačić, Sanja, Nikolić, Toni, Ruščić, Mirko, Milović, Milenko, Stamenković, Vanja, Mihelj, Darko, Jasprica, Nenad, Bogdanović, Sandro and Jasenka Topić. 2008. Flora Jadranske Obale i Otoka, 250 najčešćih vrsta. Prirodoslovno-Matematički Fakultet, Sveučiliste u Zagrebu, i Školska Knjiga.