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Seed, Root & Stem

July, 2013

 

The month of June has sizzled with excitement. The seedlings have all pushed themselves up from the earth and grow exponentially.  Progeny of the Mortal-turned-Goddess, Cynara, stands tall in my garden. Aegean legend[1] on the origin of the artichoke describes Zeus exiting the sea after visiting his brother, Poseidon, and finding himself taken in by the beauty of a mortal girl – Cynara.  He offers to transform her into a Goddess. She agrees and accepts this transformation, but later finds herself pining for her mother and sneaks away for a visit.  When Zeus finds out, he sends her permanently back to the land of the mortals as the artichoke — a gift of God and Goddess that enriches our lives to this day.

 

From then until now, Her gifts through history are abundant. Rumors flourish as to Her aphrodisiac quality, and science has discovered truth in some elements of Her historic medicinal value – including the bitter, bile-stimulating[2] teas and tinctures, cholesterol reducing effects and weight stabilization abilities. Horace, in his Ode to Venus[3], refers to her as the “…good-natured Goddess.” Is it any wonder that we covet her heart and create so many amazing recipes[4] from it?

 

I’ve gone beyond the fruit and flower to the leaves and roots in my exploration of this garden Goddess. While I was harvesting leaves and hanging them to dry, I was fascinated by their finely veined structure which I think will eventually find their way into other aspects of ritual work; perhaps the stalks will make fine wands. I am quite sure anyone walking into my home would have cause to wonder. Once the leaves were dry, I crushed them into tea.  If you aren’t opposed to bitters, this is a wonderful tea.

 

As soon as it reaches the tongue, the body reacts in a rather visceral manner. Stevia, honey and lemon juice failed to make it less bitter to my palate, so I blended it with lemonbalm and spearmint leaves to balance the bitter nature of it.  My taste buds aren’t opposed to bitters, and so I appreciate this addition to my craft and welcome it to my medicine chest.

 

A double-blind, placebo-controlled German study found that 1,800 mg of artichoke extract per day for six weeks significantly lowered total cholesterol by 18.5% compared to 8.6% in the placebo group and lowered LDL cholesterol by 22.9% compared with 6% in the placebo group. The ratio of LDL to HDL decreased by 20% in the artichoke group compared with 7% in the placebo group. There were no adverse effects associated with artichoke use.[5]

 

The Summer Solstice has arrived, and I stand here with the wind in my face, bare feet and toes digging into the earth, the fire of Sol beaming down upon me, the remnants of this week’s rainwater dripping from the globes through my out-stretched hands as I grasp the leaves for harvest. The blood of my ancestors stirs within and through me bringing visions of forbears doing this very thing in some distant, far-off place — their toes, too, wriggling into the mud and Earth. Of Cynara’s beauty that caught the eye of Zeus, and of Her daring and willingness to be transformed from mortal to Goddess, then from Goddess to seed and root and stem, bringing the bitter healing of that transformation to my garden, cauldron and table.

“…the peasants eat thistles…”

Goethe

 



[1] poetry of Quintus Horatius Flaccus

[2] How to reduce weight and keep healthy, Maha H. Mahmoud, Seham S. Kassem, Madiha M. Abdel-Kader, F.A. El-Shobaki

[3] Horus, Ode to Venus

[4] History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat (1992)

[5] Natural Cures For Common Conditions, Dr. Michael Chillemi & Stacey Chillemi