My first organic farm mentor used to refer to topsoil as “skin of the Earth.”.And each time this fine layer is broken by plow, nature’s response to heal by covering its wound with a green bandage of plants. This moment of healing becomes an opportunity. A chance for farmers to blend their own mixture of plants into a beneficial poultice.
This is where “cover crops” come in. Both preventative and restorative, cover crops are specific species of plants proven to restore soil fertility. On our farm, I make long-term rotational plantings of cover crops such as alfalfa, rye, clover, oats, buckwheat, vetch and sorghum key components of our fertility program.
But how do cover crops work? Why do they help? And why is topsoil so important anyway?
Skullcap is not a liar. No herb is. But you’re forgiven if you have trust issues with it. Actually, these issues are why we grow it ourselves. So we can keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t get mixed up with bad company. Make sure our Skullcap supply is pure and never adulterated.
You see, Skullcap has a long history of adulteration. For more than 25 years, the American Botanical Council has tracked incidents of dried Skullcap getting sold mixed with a type of Germander. What’s worse, this Germander is considered a liver toxin. As a result, Skullcap has been falsely implicated in liver dysfunction cases.
Clearly, this is unacceptable. So we did something about it.
Think of a time when you could smell home cooking from another room. The aromas drifting out of the kitchen. The scent of simmering garlic maybe, or of herbs like Rosemary and Thyme. The promise of a warm, delicious meal prepared with love. Picture yourself walking into the kitchen, grabbing a wooden spoon and sneaking a taste. Now imagine a powerful bitter flavor washing over you. A desperate, mouth-puckering, need-a-glass-of-water bitter.
Every choice has its consequences. Even when you think you’re doing the right thing, there can be hidden effects, happening in ways you didn’t see coming, in parts of the world that are a long way from home.
When you look at a photo of our fields they look quiet and pristine. Here’s one:
See what we mean?
But when you step into them, you hear the bees. Our farm is an ecosystem. The health of our herbs depends on the health of the system. 90-95% of plants here are reliant on bees to do the work of reproduction. No bees, no reproduction. Continue reading “Calling the bee rescue squad”
It’s been a whirlwind year since we announced our Aviva partnership before Natural Products Expo West last year. Now the bottles for Adrena Soothe, Adrena Nourish & Adrena Uplift are packed up, shipped out and already open in our customers’ homes across the country. And more collaborations are coming soon.
And Expo West has rolled around again. (For the 99.5% of you that aren’t coming, Expo West is a big convention in Anaheim for companies that make things that are organic or natural in some way. It’s 88,000 people in a big convention center that smells like new carpeting. It doesn’t really remind us of farms or nature, but it’s actually a bit of fun.)
Anyway, last year we had Aviva with us at our booth holding conversations about topics that interested her. Here are some of our favorite moments from Aviva’s chats at the booth.
Aviva and Sara Katz (Herb Pharm Co-Founder) discuss ethical sourcing
When you look at a plant in the ground, some parts are easy to spot. Most kids could do it. Hey, there’s the flower. That there is a leaf. Done and done. But below ground, things get a bit more confusing. There are roots, sure, but rhizomes too. And some plants like tubers and bulbs exist almost entirely underground. So what are all these things?
The journey to the heart of Peru’s Maca fields starts in the early morning in Lima. Traffic noise filling the air. Horns of various pitches and volumes competing for attention. Lima is the second largest city in the Americas. Bigger than New York, bigger than LA, bigger than even Rio or Mexico City. Only Sao Paulo is larger.
Getting out of town means hopping in a car with our supplier, putting the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean at your back and heading uphill, crawling through a traffic jam. White taxis cutting you off at slow speed. Pedestrians crossing between idling cars and buses. Until we reach the highway and start the real climb. Continue reading “Out of breath and dizzy in the high Andes home of Maca”
Quick, think of a blueberry. Think of what it’s like to pop the thin skin with your teeth. That momentary burst of mild sour tartness. Then a bright sweet flavor that spreads across your tongue. Can you picture it? Is your mouth watering just a little? This is what it’s like to eat something with just 2 flavors. Sour and sweet. Now get ready to imagine a berry that has 5 flavors. Continue reading “Tasting the berry that’s sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami all at once”
If you have your own back yard garden, then you also have some basic supplies. Some pruners, some gloves, maybe one of those cute kneeling pads. To pick Rhodiola, you’ll need all those plus a few other things. Long johns, thick boots, a parka and a plane ticket.