After a great 10.10.10 party at Zu Studios the previous night, I confess I was feeling mildly pickled myself when I turned up at the ‘Get Pickled’ event at Lewes Market Tower. This was the final event in a week long set of events organised by Common Cause (www.commoncause.org.uk ) and Lewes October Feast (www.lewesoctoberfeast.com) to highlight local food and cooking. Events ranged from mushroom foraging to live cooking demos and from special meal events to practical use of vegetables and fruit.
‘Get Pickled’ was essentially a small market with a set of speakers talking about preserving and storing food to use out of season. A lot of the information was in common use by our parents and grand-parents but has been lost as part of the Supermarket led move towards a ‘strawberries all year round’ attitude. Well, despite my slightly dehydrated body I managed to absorb plenty of titbits from speakers on pickling, the use of vinegars, picking and drying mushrooms (TIP – take your time over a few days and make sure the dried mushrooms and the jar are cooled off before you seal to prevent condensation), using oil (TIP – you must make sure the food is perfectly dry otherwise it will grow mouldy), and storing wild herbs for tonics and other uses.
A great idea was the ‘Crop Swap’ stall, manned by Topse Jewell. Topse has been the inspiration for the Farmers Market campaign across the UK as well as a range of local food initiatives. The ‘Swap’ stall was a way of allowing people to swop excess crops (not just courgettes folks but beetroot, kale and even pickles were on offer). Some hard bargaining for the relative value of Pine Bolette mushrooms and beetroot was in evidence when I visited.
Topse was delighted with the week. For the first year of the events, attendance was great and with many events sold out. “The whole idea was to get people engaged with growing food, getting to know local growers and finding out about great things to cook from the produce” says Topse. “That way more people can see that with a little bit of planning and effort, good quality and decently priced food can be yours”. Judging by some of the tasting and purchasing going on with stallholders, this event was a hit.
I bumped into Haskel Adamson at the event, a herbalist who has recently come back to Lewes to practice after a long time away. He treats people at 7 St Annes Crescent (firstname.lastname@example.org). He showed us how to dry herbs, as well as turn them into syrups and tinctures. Tinctures use alcohol at different strengths – organic vodka seems a favourite – which are great at getting the essential oils preserved and available to use.
Haskel is a big advocate of teaching people to heal themselves and understand how local herbs can heal many problems, ranging from tummy upsets to serious chronic problems. Over a coffee he explained a bit about his own journey and how he views herbalism within the healing options available.
His first encounter with herbal remedies was in Southern France while living in a tepee. His neighbour (who owned the tepee) showed him a range of medicinal herbs growing all around him. His interest stimulated he began to collect and use herbs. On return to the UK he started a 5 year degree course in Chinese Herbal medicine at Middlesex University. After 2 years he transferred to Westminster to complete a Western Herbal medicine degree course. His mentor was the legendary herbalist Chris Hedley. His training included giving general herbal advice at Neals Yard in Brighton. After a short period of treating patients in Lewes he took an extended break for family reasons before returning to Lewes in late 2009.
Haskel uses tinctures mainly due to their being more concentrated and able to absorb the essential oils in herbs easier. For colds and fevers and kidney infections for example, using dried herbs in tea infusions are better. Haskel stresses that herbal treatments are ‘energetic medicines’ in that “the tinctures are essentially using plants that were fresh a few hours before and we know the genesis of the plants”. This is completely different from “most pill based medicines where the chemical part of the plant is all the companies using them are interested in”. According to Haskel, preserving something of the “liveness of the plant is an important part of the potency and effectiveness of herbs”.
Haskel has had good results with patients. He recently treated a family of Mum plus three children who were all struggling at various levels and not thriving. Though there were some common problems and issues, each had a different set of remedies and within two weeks quite dramatic improvements were shown by all. Chronic conditions can take longer. “We sometimes get people coming to us after all other medicines or treatments are not working” says Haskel. “They are unlikely to get a quick miracle cure in this situation but if they have patience, big changes can occur.”
Conditions that respond really well to herbs are respiratory problems (eg asthma), allergies, hay fever, stomach and bowel problems. He is a big fan of Valerian for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) along with other remedies. He also points out that for digestive problems, the use of ‘bitters’ such as Gentian can really help, along with a good look at a person’s diet.
Haskel has held five local walks in Lewes introducing people to herbs, collecting them and preparing them for use. His last for 2010 is taking place on Monday 18th October from 2-5pm. The focus will be on Hawthorn which is a brilliant herb for heart conditions and issues. The herb will be collected in the Landport area near Lewes Prison. Email Haskel on email@example.com or call him on 078421 92614 for the meeting point. Cost? A bargain £5 and chance to really get to know an important medicinal herb.