Herbs, Teas and Medicine

It’s always been kind of bizarre to me that – with so many fantastic herbs growing locally – Tropojan cuisine ignores most of them. One of my favorite stories from a friend is about visiting her sophisticated urban sister with her father, and when the sister wasn’t looking, the father grabbed my friend and said “Don’t say anything! She’s putting grass in the food! JUST EAT IT!” Anyhow the herbs we have here include wild sage, rosemary, many kinds of wild thyme, mints beyond counting, and more. For things that lend themselves to freezing, take a look at what’s in our fridge.
More time-honored are the plants with medicinal value (which, yes, half the time includes herbs and teas that ALSO taste good!). Herb lore is traditionally the jealously guarded intellectual property of the “mjek popullore” (people’s doctor), some of whom go so far as to only collect plants at night – so no one knows what they’re up to. Some years ago, one of us had a bad problem with what seemed to be ulcerative colitis – “Oh, the local ‘mjek’ makes a tonic for that” we were told, so we invested in a 3000lek bottle of Fernet Branca, with a bunch of twigs stuffed into it, and DAMN if it didn’t cure the problem in 4 days. Unfortunately, the knowledge was traditionally handed down from father to son, and most modern sons aren’t interested in it. Job for someone, there. Hopefully.

We have collected things mostly because people here are bothering to harvest and hoping to sell them – meaning we know that they’re valued, but we may not ourselves be 100% clear on WHY.  I suspect that in the past, people used to collect, save, and EAT things, just because – you know – eating them was better than eating nothing.  But we’re doing our best to collect lore and share it.  We make absolutely no claims to whether or not the lore is accurate.  Some of it is clearly bonkers – like the idea that a certain kind of snake crawls into your mouth and down into your stomach and lives there until it kills you (I am personally 99% sure that the entire community has confused tapeworms with snakes – but, eh . . . there’s another great master’s thesis waiting to happen.  And a lot of people still murder this particular kind of snake, no matter how many times I argue that snakes can’t POSSIBLY live inside people.) (And we’re not selling snakes, dried snakes, or snake cures, so nevermind, anyhow.)  Point is, some of this stuff may be chiefly valuable – at the end of the day – as a source of vitamins for a historically winter-starved population, and we don’t make any claims that any of these things will save your life.  Nor do we (as ever) necessarily know what the heck we’re talking about.  But, this disclaimer aside, I’m pretty proud of what we’ve collected.  It’s a good representation of what people here have been dosing themselves with for 100s of years.