Harvesting In Lithuania
Some of our favourite ingredients come from Lithuania, where the harvesting starts around April and continues until October, depending on whether a herb or a fruit. August is the month that most of the herb harvests, having been picked then dried, are delivered to our workshop, which is essentially closed for the summer except for the processing of our herbs.
Wild thyme from Lithuania, and elsewhere in Northern Europe, is very different from that grown in the Mediterranean. Mediterranean thyme likes the dry weather and grows tall and has more culinary use than drinking with its pungent aroma and flavour created by long exposure to lots of sunshine. In fact the compound thymol that is produced in the aromatic oil of the thyme plant is such a powerful ingredient that it can even produce adverse reactions.
The Lithuanian species grows in a very damp environment - in wet, deep forests - thyme forests - with very little sunshine reaching the ground. They are short plants – almost ground cover – resembling purple carpet growing in the dappled sunlight. And because there is less sun, the plant does not produce much thymol. It is a more earthy aromatic. We use all parts of the plant - the flower has a beautiful aroma reminiscent of a forest in summer, while the leaf and stalk have a more earthy aroma. It is foraged wild in Southern Lithuania. It has to be picked with care as it regrows from the roots, and is picked with scissors so as not to damage the plant. It takes only a week or so to dry as it is quite woody.
Thyme can be used for antiseptic purposes, and good for colds – either to drink in an infusion or to boil it up and used as an inhalant, but the flavour of our wild thyme is delicious without looking for a healing property. With our blends we use the thyme in combination with marjoram and wild Lithuanian mint.
The lime blossom needs to be harvested before mid-summer, before the bees can get to the pollen. Lime trees (which actually don’t grow the lime fruit!), also known as linden, are very tall, and as soon as the small sweetly-scented white flowers open, either the branches need to be cut down or a ladder climbed to reach and cut each flower.
Because the lime blossom is rich in pollen, it has a myriad of healing properties: it is a natural antiseptic, and is known to help reduce a fever, headaches and aid sleep.
It has a sweet beautiful, almost honey-like taste. We use it extensively in blends as it is such a wonderful base - with orange blossom & verbena, fennel & green rooibos, uzu & lemon myrtle.
The timber of the lime tree is soft and easily worked – often used to make sculptures and cots for babies, whereas the oak’s timber is strong and hard and used for tables and chairs.
Traditionally in Lithuania, an isolated cottage built in the deep forest would need to have been self-sustainable and surrounded by trees for fruit and timber – always including an oak tree for furniture and for burning logs in winter months, and lime trees would have surrounded the house – with the fluctuating temperature creating powerful thunderstorms - in case hit by lightning, the lime tree would just gently split causing the least damage to the cottage. In the Lithuanian folk worldview system, trees have a “gender” - oak represents a man, lime a woman.
In Lithuania, caraway, that grows like fennel with its feathery green leaves, is a very popular herb and has many uses: as a spice for rye bread; it’s very calmative on the stomach, and frequently used as an infusion, like gripe water, for babies. And there is a wonderful fermented black rye bread drink – Gira - made with raisins, black bread and caraway; it is fermented, then served cold with ice and a gently sweet flavour.
Caraway grows widely, both farmed and wild and then harvested and milled around July/August.
Caraway has liquorice and citrus notes and a warm sweet taste. We sell it by itself, and we also make a blend with our caraway, fennel, and green rooibos.
Cold brewing tisanes
Cold brewing tisanes is a great way to have all the benefits from the herbs, and creates an uncaffeinated and refreshing drink. The best method is to brew the herbs in room temperature water overnight – not in the fridge. In the morning, strain the infusion and then pop it into the fridge. Use within one day.
We recommend 4 tablespoons of herb to 1litre water.