Friday, April 29, 2022

Patti Bess: Return of the herb walk – The Union

Kathi Keville lives and teaches at Oak Valley Herb Farm between Grass Valley and Chicago Park.

She is an internationally known aromatherapist, herbalist and a passionate organic gardener. In her workshops and garden tours, Kathi is a walking encyclopedia of herbal lore and knowledge. A certain electricity permeates her enthusiasm and appreciation of all plant life and herbal medicines. She knows the cultivation of a plant, its medicinal uses and culinary applications, as well as the history and traditions surrounding it.

Kathi is the author of 14 books on herbs and is internationally known for her books on aromatherapy. She began teaching in 1970 and has been the director of the American Herb Association since its creation in 1981, and is also the editor of the AHA quarterly newsletter.

Recently, I visited her farm. With over 500 species of medicinal plants, the gardens are divided into regional beds adapted to various growing conditions. Actually a mini-botanical garden, the landscaped display gardens are used as a teaching resource for her Green Medicine School.

After a two-year pandemic pause of all herb walks and classes, she is resuming them this spring. Reservations are now open for Wild Herb Walks at various local destinations in May and June. You can sign up for them or garden tours at or by calling 530-274-3140. The website also has listings of upcoming herb classes in more detail.

Kathi has led three tours to Tuscany, visiting herbal farms and botanical gardens in that region, and a Lavender Festival, as well as a continuously operating apothecary in the oldest church in Florence. The group tours by bus tasting, sampling and harvesting through the countryside. Unfortunately, the tour for 2022 was canceled because of Italy’s complicated restrictions on group travel. But plans for next year are already bubbling up in Kathi’s lively imagination. More information and email are on the website.

Lavender is used much more extensively in cooking all over Europe. Here is a good recipe to sample.

Lavender and Orange Custard

Two cups milk

One tablespoon dried lavender flowers

Four eggs

One-third cup honey

One teaspoon vanilla bean powder

One teaspoon orange extract

Pinch of salt

• Slowly heat the lavender in milk in a saucepan until it starts to bubble, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat for another 10 minutes. Then strain lavender out and allow milk to cool for another few minutes.

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

• In a bowl, mix, eggs, honey salt, vanilla and orange without beating the eggs. Add cooled milk while stirring. Pour into 6-ounce ramekins and place in a deep baking dish. Pour in hot water to half way up outside of ramekins. Bake 30 minutes until has a slight wiggle. Cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

From “Alchemy of Herbs” by Rosalee de la Font

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley

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