Monday, August 14, 2017

Varthemia

כתלה חריפה Chiliadenus iphionoides

Sharp Varthemia (Chiliadenus iphionoides), or in Hebrew Ktela Harifa (כתלה חריפה) likes to grow inside rocks and has the most incredibly resinous, rustic, complex aroma. It truly is like a complete perfume all of its own, exemplifying what Garriague and Chypre are all about.

Sharp Vartehmia

I've stumbled upon this plant by chance, first near Keshet Cave in Park Adamit near the Lebanese border. A beautiful place with gorgeous view. It was one of two aromatic plants i was unable to identify, but intuitively knew they are both of medicinal and aesthetic value. I later found Varthemia on the mountain above my house. But it wasn't until I saw Yonat HaMidbar post about it and rave about its lovely perfume that I was able to identify the plant (it was never in bloom when I saw it, and it's near impossible to ID plants when they are not in bloom).

Vartehmia Incense Cones

Shortly after I was not only inspired to finally make incense cones out of it, but also studied some of the medicinal properties of it. Among others, it is good for heart problems and diabetes - and seems like a very gentle herb to enjoy in tea (as long as it's not overly done). I picked some for a friend who just had a heart attack, and figured my own heart could benefit from it too. So I've been sipping a lot of vartehmia. marrubium and white mint tea. A lovely combination, and feels to be soothing both the heart and the soul.

Heart Soothing Tea

Infusions

My next adventure with vartehmia is infusing it in both alcohol and olive oil. From the olive oil I will make a single-note vartehmia soap (I will also have it brewed into tea for the water component of the soap making process, so that it is as naturally fragrant as possible). From the alcohol infusion, which turned out beautifully resinous and rich, I've created a rustic, garrigue-inspired amber perfume, which I am debating if you launch this fall or not. It's a further development of an old, old, old formula that was almost sickeningly sweet because the amber base in it wasn't my own and I am quite certain contained some artificial molecules. Frankly, that base smelled more like an ambreine accord. The perfume I made with it included a touch oregano that balanced this sweetness to some degree, but not enough. I want the new perfume to be more authentic and local, and use my own herbal infusions in it - but without taking away from the luxurious character of the perfume. It is very different from the original, and surprisingly has a bit of the Espionage DNA to it - even there is nothing smoky about it. Must be the ambreine accord (which, FYI, is the core of Shalimar, Emeraude and the like). 

Inbar


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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Soapmaking

Soapmaking in the planning
My idea of a perfect (summer) includes a lot of R & D (research and development) in the lab. Earlier this summer, before humidity got out of hand, I got my act together and created my first batch of soap, ever. It was the exact same formula that Open Source Soap used for creating all my fragrance 3-in-1 soap bars. I decided on an unscented soap for my first batch, because I really wanted to see and experience the soap in its pure form  - and also avoid painful loss of precious fragrant materials in case I screw up.
Pouring my first batch of soap ever
The process is a tad tedious and time consuming, requiring one to be precise with the temperatures and also extra cautious with the lye's caustic properties. It was a rather humid day when I made it, so I realized pretty fast that it is very uncomfortable to work with goggles and gloves when the air is so slippery and moist; and also there is that feeling that the air would cary the caustic fumes far too easily into my system. No harm was done, but I am now convinced that winter is the best time for this kind of production (or R & D, for that matter).
Cured soap
I've used stainless steel loaf pans as molds. I made a mistake of not putting any linings (I didn't want them to have wrinkles at the bottom). Turns out it was near impossible to get the soap out after the 24 hour hardening period. But I managed to do it anyway.
Soap slicing
The result I'm very pleased with as far as the soap consistency, properties (lathering, moisturizing) albeit its messy look. I know that if it was possible to take it out of the mold easily they would have been beautiful, so for next time I'm going to use a different procedure for the pouring process and probably use a different mold - probably will reuse 1L milk cartons. The bars will have a different size than they did under Schuyler's hands (he used 2L juice cartons, and than cut them in the middle to create a long shaped rectangle). Mine will be more on the squarish side.
Post-Soapmking Mess
I ended up with a lot of soap shavings, from which I can make a liquid soap or just use for hand washing clothes etc.
Post-Soapmking Mess - Cleanup
Cleanup time!
(Which is super easy, by the way - especially with my designated sink and stainless steel surfaces - yay!).

Infusions

I am now waiting at least for a dry weather to proceed with more experiments. In the meantime, I'm creating oil infusions of herbs that could be incorporated into the soap, from wild herbs that grow here - for example Varthemia and Sage. Having appropriate space makes all the difference - I have room for large- mouthed jars that can sit around for months if needed and still not take up much of my ongoing workspace. It is so refreshing to have a studio built especially for the purpose I need it for. I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am about that and all the possibilities of what I can do next.

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Burning through the Desert

Dan Rielger & Ayala Moriel

A few months ago (the last day of April, to be exact, which was also the first day of my Orientals week-long course), I had the pleasure and honour to host a special guest throughout the day: Dan Riegler of Apothecary's Garden - a purveyor of fair trade resins from around the world - especially frankincense and myrrh that are wild crafted in the traditional methods in countries such as Somalia, Yemen and Kenya. He also sources Cretan labdanum, and other rare raw materials, and sells resin-centrered products that he concocts himself, which you can find on his online shop. One of them being a highly fragrant moustache wax which basically surrounded him with a cloud of frankincense - so obviously he made an instant good impression on me!

We started the day at the Baha'i Gardens in Akko (which deserve a full post dedicated to them) and then went to my studio to make incense - and burn a bunch too. Little did I know what I was signing up for. On top of the usual things I burn for this class (palo santo chips, sandalwood incense sticks, one type of myrrh and frankincense resins and my own rendition of Egyptian Kyphi) - Dan had a trunk-load of resins that he just imported from Africa, and was immensely kind and generous to share with us the most incredible incense resins with me and my class. We spent the afternoon burning rare myrrh, olibanum, and also some gums I never knew existed, namely Sandarac and Ammoniacum, the latter of which totally blew my mind.

I learned so much from Dan, about the resins (and the other raw materials he curates and sells), how they are harvested and collected, the chemical makeup of the resins and how it affects the stages of burning (it turns out that incense resins also have top, heart and base notes) - and this post is just a little taste of all the beautiful resins we burnt when he was here. I'm looking forward to meeting him again on his next visits in Israel on the way to the African continent.

Boswellia carterii
Frankincense usually comes in "tears" shape as this Boswellia carterii - but not always. Below is a specimen of the less known B. neglecta that look more like a chunk of resinous granules. B. carterii has the characteristic, most unmistakable scent of frankincense - beginning with sweet citrus notes of lemon drops and orange candy and continuing into more resinous, woody and even balsamic, caramel-like nuances as the incense burns on the charcoal.

While looking pretty much the same, other frankincense species provide further nuances and a whole frankincense burning comparative study (or incense games a-la Japenese Koh-Doh) can easily occupy half a day. Compare this to Maydi (Boswellia frereana) which albeit its slightly herbaceous (sage-like) opening, is more subtle, woody and perfumey. In fact, it smells almost powdery like violet and iris. Ethiopian frakincince (Boswellia papyrifea) is even finer with its suave, light perfume notes, slightly sweet and with notes of burnt sugar at the end of the charcoal burning process.

Boswellia negoecta - black and white

Boswellia neglecta is endemic to north Kenya and comes in white and black forms (as you can see in the photo) and is not widely known. The white and the black smell significantly different. The white begins resinous-green, piney and mysterious, surprisingly juice like crushed leaves with hints of parsley, galbanum and ammonia (smells a lot like amoniacum).  It has a hint of sweaty note, a little like coriander seed. The final burning moments bring to mind the smoke coming out of autumnal piles of fall leaves.

The black neglecta smells completely different - you wouldn't think it came from the same plant: it smells dark and looming, like moss, mushrooms, decaying fall leaves, peat, forest floor and hints of campfire. It's surprising and magical that a resin can possess so many different facets.

Sandarac
Sandarac (tetraclllyris) comes from Malta and just like its pure milky appearance, burns clean with a woody-balsamic-resinous scent that is fine and very pleasant. It's a little bit like elemi, a little like mastic but not quite. There is a tiny hint of seashore to it that I only detected after many times of burning. It is quite lovely, even if underwhelming at first impression.

Ammoniacum
Ammoniacum is intense and pungent, like a mixture of galbanum, asafoetida, sulphur, greens. It it a very interesting odour but I suspect it would have better effect in magic and exorcism ceremonies rather than contemplative incense rituals.

Commiphora confusa

Commiphora confusa, as the name suggests, is a type of myrrh that is hard to identify, and for several reasons: the flowers look different on each plant, the resin looks different as well - and the most surprising of all: it smells more like frankincense than myrrh.

Commiphora myrrha

Commiphora myrrha (from Ethiopea) has the characteristic bitter, rubbery scent when burnt, and is what I'd imagine the Queen of Sheba to wear on her neck when seducing King Solomon.

Commiphora karat

Commiphora kataf (from Kenya) has pieces of wood in it (which would change the smell of the smoke depending on which chunk you burn). It has a strange, sulphuric-sweaty odour. I guess you could call it spicy, as it has a hint of cumin in it too. Overall it reminds me more of the smell of food than incense - barbecuing kebabs comes to mind.

Commiphira holziana
Commiphora holtziana does not smell like myrrh at all to me. It's more woody than C. myrrha, and a tad fresh to start with. Dan describes it as briny and sea-like but I'm not getting it.

Arabian/Yemeni Myrrh
Arabian/Yemeni Myrrh is by far the most incredibly beautiful myrrh resin I've ever burnt. Although it came in a strange looking chunk, containing pieces of the plastic bags used by the collectors, and even a piece of wool yarn, it has the most fantastic scent, like a perfume on its own accord. It reminds me of the unique "version" of frankincense that B. papyrifea offers. I would love to have this as an essential oil and create a perfume with it.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Za'atar

Summer Za'atar on the border with Lebanon
There is a little confusion around the name "Za'atar" and what exactly does it refer to: A condiment? A spice mix? An herb? And if so - which herb exactly - Hyssop? Thyme? Oregano? Marjoram?

The truth is that za'atar is an Arabic word used interchangeably for a number of wild herbs that grow wild in the Mediterranean region, and all contain thymol and carvacrol. Hence their similar sharp and warm aroma, bitter taste and spicy, almost hot "bite". They also share similar medicinal properties, most of them used in folk medicine for most digestive ailments and respiratory complaints. The mixture known to us as "Za'atar" is in fact a misnomer. Za'atar is originally the name of the plant now classified as Origanum syriacum, but in Arabic it is loosely applied to several other related wild and not so wild herbs.

Zaatar

The name for the condiment is in fact "doukka" (pronounced often as "Do-ak" with a very throaty "K" that almost sounds like an "A" so in reality the word sounds more like "Do-ah"). In Arabic this means "to grind". Each region in the Arab world has its own "Doukka", which is either sprinkled on food, or more commonly covered in olive oil to which the traditional regional bread is dipped. For example - Egypt has a complex nut-based doukka with toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, to which toasted or untoasted spices such as cumin, coriander seeds, green peppercorns and sweet fennel have been added.

In the Levant "doukka" happens to be made primarily of a mixture of thymol-containing herbs, with "The" Za'atar (Origanum syriacum) being the star of the show. Lesser amounts of other herbs, will be added - the most important of which are "Za'atar Farsi" (winter savory), Israeli Thyme (Corydothymus capitatus), Zuta זוטה לבנה ( Micromeria fruiticosa barbata), a delicate wild white mint known in English as White-Leaved Savory (which does not even belong to the savory genus, but to micromeria because of its tiny leaves). Common oregano (Origanum vulgare) makes a good addition, albeit cannot substitute for the real Za'atar or Syrian oregano if you actually know the real deal. Likewise, marjoram and thyme can also make a good addition but not be at the centre. Even though their profiles are similar - there are some nuances that will be lost if using only the garden variety oreganos and thymes and none of the wild stuff.

Many other things can be added to the mix, the most important being sumac berries (Rhus coriaria) for their wonderful salty-sour flavour, and toasted sesame seeds for their pop-in-the-mouth nuttiness. But you'll also find spices sometimes, including more obscure ones such as butum (بطم) - toasted terebinth fruits (Pistachia palestina), which are really like tiny pistachios with the outer red peel intact. I've got a few of those drying right now, because I've never seen them in any market before and I'm very curious how they taste as a spice.

The following are several authentic Za'atar recipes I've collected - and of course you are welcome to browse google's universe of shared recipes, but be cautious of a few things if you want to make an authentic za'atar:
1) Use actual Origanum syriacum even if a generic "oregano" is called for
2) Do not by any stretch of the imagination use "fresh" leaves. They must be dried first. And only then will you grind them up with the rest of the ingredients. This is a dried herb and spice mix. Not a fresh herb concoction.
3) Usage of salt, although found in many recipes, seems very superfluous to me, unless you are not using sumac berries. These have a unique taste - equally salty and tangy. The whole point of using them is so you do not need to use salt. Likewise, using citric acid is a way to fake the sumac effect. Which I'm not quit sure why would anyone do that aside from laziness. Sumac berries are difficult to grind manually (or even in a coffee grinder) - but you can find ground sumac easily in many spice shops and markets.

When shopping for pre-made spice mixes, or any ground spices for that matter, the main culprit is adulteration and using old raw material that are "dressed up" as authentic. It's hard to teach someone who've never tasted or smelled za'atar what to look for, but some things are a telling sign. For example: if you don't see the dark maroon red and still taste salt or tanginess, it is probably from salt and citrus acid, and not from the (missing) red sumac berries. Secondly, another visual sign - za'atar leaves are rather grey in colour when dried, so any other colour you see (olive green) is either food colouring or a combination of other types of "za'atar" herbs (i.e.: thyme, za'atar farsi, etc.). Best sign is by taste - if it taste like dust (and looks like dust) it's either too old or just a fake.

I suggest you start with the most basic three ingredients, and then play with the proportions and adding other herbs and/or spices. You can even start with equal amount of za'atar leaves, sumac and sesame and adjust to taste.

Safta Ada's Za'atar Recipe 
This is my mom's handmade recipe that she would make from wild harvested za'atar (before it was illegal to pick any) and would even send it to Vancouver so I can enjoy a taste of home.
1 cup dried za'atar leaves, coarsely crushed between your palms, or pounded with mortar and pestle to a finer powder
4 Tbs ground sumac berries (I suggest you purchase them pre-ground, otherwise their seeds can break your teeth!)
2 Tbs toasted brown sesame seeds, whole

May Bsisu wrote an excellent book, The Arab Table, which I highly recommend, and it includes a unique Palestinian style of za'atar that includes caraway:
10oz oregano (I assume she means za'atar)
5oz thyme
3 Tbs sumac, ground
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
2-1/2 Tbs coarse salt
1/2 tsp allspice, ground
1/4 tsp caraway seeds, ground 

Easy Lebanese Recipes provides a "Traditional Rich Recipe" for za'atar that I'm compelled to try, with dried za'atar, roasted sesame, sumac, marjoram, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, fennel, aniseed and salt.

Mamma's Lebanese Kitchen recipe contains thyme, marjoram, sumac, sesame, cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon and salt.

How to consume za'atar?
Use your za'atar mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread, on top of labneh (strained yoghurt cheese) or as a substitute for butter under any other soft or hard cheese, avocado, etc.
It's also a nice addition to salads, and for baking fish or poultry. I also like to add it to chickpeas that I fry whole in olive oil, after they've been cooked and drained.

Fresh za'atar leaves come in late winter and can be enjoyed all through spring, and can be fried in olive oil much like tender sage leaves and become this wonderful crispy topping for fresh bread, pasta, roasted vegetables, etc. Also, they can be used as they are in salads (May Bsisu has a recipe for fresh oregano salad in that book as well), with lots of onion and tomatoe. The Druze use it to season the dough or the fillings for various savoury pastries, such as sambusak (a flatbread that is folded in half to conceal a thin layer of highly seasoned stuffing, and baked in the tabun) and fatayer (little dough pockets filled with cheese), and the dried whole leaves can be used much like oregano in meat and pasta sauces, in soups, stews, breads, etc.

Now, let's explore the Za'atar "group" of plants:

Hyssop (Wild Oregano)

Ezov (the Hebrew word for the Biblical Hyssop - not the European Hyssopus officials which is also a medicinal plant, and produces a rather toxic essential oil), which is now classified as an oregano, Origanum syriacum (formerly Majorana syriaca). Like many of the other aromatic plants from the Lamiaceae family, za'atar has a winter and spring foliage and a summer foliage, which is smaller in order to preserve water and survive the long arid season. I suspect the essential oils also aid with the survival of these plants in such harsh conditions - because whenever they are grown in regions where the water is more abundant (British Columbia, for example) - their flavour is largely lacking. What you see above is the luscious winter "look", which features soft and larger leaves, and their colour is much greener, and therefore more similar to the common oregano (Origanum vulgare).

Satureja

Za'atar Farsi (meaning Persian Za'atar), or as it is called in Hebrew צתרה ורודה - Tzatra Vruda (Pink Tzatra) which really is winter or mountain savory (Satureja montana). Its long needle-like leaves have a sharp, spicy taste. When we were growing up my mom would spice the egg for French Toast with them and make them literally savoury.

Thymbra spicata צתרנית משובלת
Mediterranean Thyme (Thymbra spicata), in Hebrew צתרנית משובלת Tzatranit Meshubelet is also called in Arabic "Za'atar farsi", and has a very similar leaf shape (only a bit longer, narrower and softer) and almost identical odour and aroma profile. It has flowers that look a bit more like chaffs of wheat (not unlike those of Lavandula dentata, and is even more rare to find than Satureja montana.

Coridothymus capitatus
Israeli Thyme (Corydothymus capitatis / Thymus capitatus / Thymbra capitata) or in Hebrew Koranit Mekurkefet קורנית מקורקפת is also known by many other names - Israeli oreganum (oil), Cretan thyme, Corido thyme, Headed savory, Thyme of the Ancient, Conehead thyme and most commonly - Spanish Oregano (even though it is not classified as "origanum"). This oil is what is often sold as "oregano oil", by the way. This is now a rare plant that in our area grows only along the rocky seashores of the North Coast leading to Lebanon. The leaves are tiny and sharp, like a miniature version of the Pink Tzatra, but they grow more dense and close together to form clusters around the tip of the branches. The branches are woody-looking almost like bonsai trees that crawl all over the rocks - and the flowers tiny and purplish-pink. The aroma is clean and maybe a little more simple than that of za'atar, but also the taste is much more sharp and phenolic.



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Monday, July 10, 2017

Healing Plants

Garrigue - Teucrium creticus

Although I never intentionally created my perfume with aromatherapy mindset, I found them to be very healing throughout the years. Partially because of the creative process itself - the bringing together of contrasting and conflicting elements that represent such aspects within my psyche. And partially because I actually felt the plants' healing energy through wearing the perfumes:
Grounding, soothing, reviving, reminiscent of the places and people I missed and longed for, helped me get through many rough patches and heartbreaks that permeated the majority of my years on this earth.

While moving my vast collection of fragrant materials, I realized that at my fingertips I have an entire pharmacopeia. This is also true for some of my fragrances. A few weeks ago I started the day with intense sense of grief and feeling very heavy hearted and anxious. I had to fill orders that morning, and make samples of Ayalitta. I dabbed some on and no less than fifteen minutes later I noticed that I am feeling more grounded and that the anxious hole opening at the pit of my stomach started to close... It could be partially explained by power of association and past experiences wearing this scent while being in a similar state of mind and finding it soothing. Also, I think another big part has to do with the actual plants in it and their healing powers, namely sage (both Spanish and Clary), rose, jasmine, neroli and patchouli.

Part of my moving back to my home village was for reconnecting with nature and Mother Earth in a more immediate, hands-on manner. I wanted to not only smell the spirit of the plants that I love and cherish, but also experience them int heir living state. I wanted to see how they grow and turn the brown soil and sunlight they absorb into myriads of different colours, shapes, flavours, scents and therapeutic properties.

Behind my home is a mountain, and on it grow wild many fragrant and medicinal plants. It's awe-inspiring how many remedies are gifted to us by Mother Nature. If we only listen and learn her secrets, we have the potential to heal gently and find cure for many of our physical and emotional pains and misalignments. Plants are such benevolent creatures, I am now beginning to understand on a more immediate level why so many tales and myths about plants associate them with a spiritual being, such as an angel, nymph or even a god or a goddess.

The properties and aromas of the plants here fascinate me. They feel familiar (and in fact I know many of them since forever) - yet I keep meeting new plants that are either highly fragrant or medical; and those that I do know keep surprising me with new uses and therapeutic potential that I never knew existed.

For example: I came across a very ambery-spicy-herbaceous-smelling herb that has quite resinous leaves., growing in rather rocky areas up on the mountains here. I could not ID it because it never had flowers when I saw it. I tried brewing it into teas (even though you probably shouldn't consume something you haven't even identified yet!), tincturing it, and also drying the leaves, which I want to incorporate into incense. Just yesterday I saw someone post about it and was able to immediately recognize it - Chiliadenus iphionoides (כתילה חריפה)Turns out it has not only a delicious aroma but also many uses for diseases in respiratory system, as well as the heart, digestive system, skin conditions, wounds, fever, overall weakness and joint inflammation.

Teucrium (Germander) is another new discovery for me - for both its fragrance and myriads of medicinal uses. And also I am going to dedicate an entire post to the various thymes and oreganos that grow here, which aside from their well known culinary significance in regional and international cuisine - are also extremely valuable medicinally; and I'm also warming up to their fragrance per se (a rare occurrence in perfumery, really). Vitex agnus-castus (שיח-אברהם מצוי) always eluded me with its fragrance, and now I'm also discovering its healing properties, especially for women's health.  And last but not least - I discovered that clary sage is actually a wild plant here as well, and was gifted two tiny plants from Neta Fink who visited my studio last week. I am feeling very inspired to study these plants - both old friends and new ones - explore properties and work them into new applicable products that would be both fragrant and healing.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Top of the Land

Wild Rose (Rosa canina) on the peak of Mt. Hermon
After picking a bunch of cherries to complete our breakfast we drove to the peak of Mount Hermon (Jabal A-Sheikh) - elevation 2,224m, which is accessible with chair lifts. It was a relatively hot day but still much more pleasant than the rest of the country - somewhere around 26c or so, with a very harsh sun yet a nice dry cool breeze ever so often.

Cherry Picking
The vegetation is somewhat sparse but very special and with many varieties growing on this mountain. Some plants can be found in other northern places (for example: the now protected Wild artichoke (Gundelia tournefortii) - עכובית הגלגל, which grew in most parts of the country before), but others are endemic to this mountain alone, because of its exceptional conditions and placement. It is covered in snow all winter, and once it melts resembles a cool desert land, covered with white rocks and with no trees in sight. Dog roses (Rosa canina) are native to Israel, but are quite a rare sight otherwise. To find a bush in full bloom at the peak of Mt. Hermon was elating. Of course, it has a heavenly fragrance.

Peak of Mt. Hermon

Up on the peak, there is a sense that many of the plants here has some mysterious medicinal value, for some very specific and possibly rare conditions. I am imagining a time when climbing the mountain on foot would be a great ordeal (well, it still is - but most people use the road and then the gondola!). People would only go up the mountain for an important mission set forth by a divine guidance, a royal order, or a great and pressing need to save someone's life from a rare illness...
פריגה חלקת פרי
This poppy (Glaucium oxylobum פרגה קרחת/פריגה חלקת פרי), for example, is unique to Mt. Hermon and can't be found anywhere else in the country (but it can be found in high elevations - upwards of 1,100m - in the mountains of Turkey and Iran). I love its bright dual colours and contrasting "eyes". It blooms for a very long season - six months to be exact, from April when the snow melts, till the total dryness of September. There is a great variety between flowers, but they all share this startling, sudden contrasting colour change, and unusual display of three colours.
Salvia microstegia מרווה בוצינית + Alyssum baumgartnerianum אליסון חרמוני
Salvia microstegia (the hairy big leaves with white flowers), the thistle-looking plant is Cousinia hermonis (קוסיניה חרמונית), the yellow flowers are of Alyssum baumgartnerianum Bornm. (אליסון חרמוני), AKA madwort. It is not the only yellow flower found on Mt Hermon  - so don't confuse it with Lebanese St. John's Wort (Hypericum libanoticum) in Hebrew - פרע לבנוני, or with the two types of Achilea that grow there - Achillea biebersteinii (אכילאה קטנת-פרחים) and the endemic Achillea falcata (אכילאה גפורה).

There might also be a type of catnip (נפית קילקית?) Nepata - of some kind that I'm yet to completely ID), or a horehound in the pic. Which also reminds me of the unusual Lebanese horehound (Marrubium libanoticum Boiss) - in Hebrew מרוביון הלבנון/מרמר הלבנון, which is also a highly medicinal plant.
Israel|Syria border - view from peak of Mt. Hermon
Israel & Syria - view from above. Where the green ends Syria begins... It's sad but true, due to over-forestation and roaming in Syria, and on the other hand much planting of trees all across Israel.

Lastly, here is me and Miss T standing against this dramatic backdrop.

Israel|Syria Border - Peak of Mt. Hermon




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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Maple & Fig

Maple & Fig

On our way back to Clil, we sat down by the Dan creek in Kibbutz Dafna. The creek goes through the centre of the kibbutz, and there is a beautiful park alongside, where people, dogs and little children came to enjoy quietly at the end of a hot day. We cooled off in the creek, and set up our last tea party for this trip. After all the caffeine of the day, I opted for an herbal tea - a blend from all the different dried plants I brought with me, including sage, lavender, lemongrass, savory, wild oregano (za'atar), and more. We deconstructed a box of cherries that we picked that morning, and finished up the very last bit of the precious ka'akat isfar. All good things come to an end. Sigh...

Tea by the Creek

A little girl approached us, followed by her parents, and gifted us with flat bark of some tree that she found. I again regretted not inviting everyone I see for a tea party, but realized I was inviting her just being there and radiating our tea-infused calm. I drew a tea cup on one piece of bark, and a heart on the other and gave them back to her.

Under the trees, there was that sweet and balmy, almost like styrax - we were sitting under a tree that looked like a cultivated sweetgum tree of one kind or another (they have leaves a little similar to maple). It was comforting to find a smell that is similar to Canada right here in the upper galilee. A smell I would have not even known its origin - or perhaps would have not even notice the smell - if it weren't for my arbourous friends from the far away land. I will always have both the maple and the fig in my heart - and my nostrils.

Herbal Tea