Now don't get the impression that we have a celebrity guest every week (although, I wouldn't be surprised if some of our lecturers were closet B-listers...) but this was a very special visit. James flew up specifically just for the day, braving Edinburgh's finest display of summer weather (torrential rain and freezing temperatures) to give us a talk on the latest and greatest herbs he's encountered and to share his knowledge with us in making potions, lotions, concoctions and brews (stay with me!).
James grew up in Malaysia where there are no boundaries between the concepts of food, medicine and therapeutic and even cosmetic preparations – all are done for the good of the body and health of the individual. He trained as Ethnobotantist focusing on how medicinal plants were used by different cultures across the world. Surprisingly he found that many of our familiar friends have traveled far and in the wake of European colonisation established residency in ancient traditions. So for example, in Ecuador, shamans who look and practice in a seemingly unique and indigenous way are actually using the same herbs we use: dandelions, nettles, daisies and hedgerow plants.
His research, both independent and in tandem with Kew Garden experts, continues to embrace a global exchange of knowledge and he actively advocates changing what we grow in our gardens. In fact by introducing foreign plants we can reap benefits of not only health but of wealth too. A few topping his list:
Grow Wasabi not Cabbages. Wasabi naturally grows on chalky soil, in cold, freezing, wet conditions - an environment most definitely found here. The peas, plants and stems are all good for you and sell for an enormous amount (stems = £10 each) in world markets, but can hardly been bought for love or money in the UK. Covent Garden would sing if you arrived with a basket of these.
|James Wong making Lemon Balm Cordial|
|Herbologist paparazzi encountering Elderflower Delight|
Thank you for a