To a non-botanist, the fact that Mediterranean herbs such as thyme, basil, tarragon, rosemary and oregano thrive in the rich volcanic tropical soil of Bali is nothing short of a miracle. These aromatic herbs with their silver green foliage invoke images of Mediterranean summers, dry heat, olive groves and rocky ground. However the fact is that these aromatics, so well adapted to the Mediterranean, also grow extremely well in tropical Bali. Seeing fields of luscious herbs flourish high up on Bali volcanoes, it seems apt that oregano in Greek translates directly as ‘mountain joy’.
Effortlessly organic, antioxidant rich, antibacterial and adding complexity and aroma whether cooked, raw, dried, infused in oil, as tea and dehydrated as living raw spices, herbs have the power to transform foods, drinks, infusions and atmospheres. Apart from the Mediterranean herbs, the Bali climate supports the full range of Asian herbs, such as cilantro, thai basil and lemongrass. Together this abundant herb life can provide a complete sensual tickle and hit; sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, earthy, salty, spicy – to name just a few of the tastes – variously delivered to the nose, palate, tongue and throat.
Apart from being absolutely delicious, in these times of industrial agriculture and medicines, herbs and herbal knowledge provide a path to independence in health and nutrition and a means to connect to the ancient tradition of nourishing wholeness through connecting to nature.
In Bali there are two great traditions to draw from in delving into herbal life. The Balinese tradition of tried and tested remedies and recipes, handed down from generation to generation, including daun kelor (moringa), temulawak, temkunci and daun tui, amongst many others, prized for their health enhancing properties and still common knowledge amongst the Balinese, even if much of it is slowly giving way to store bought quick fixes.
There is also a western herbal tradition, which although it includes passed down generational gems such as chamomile and arnica, does not come from one central canon. The western herbal tradition is based more on experimentation, taking the tools and knowledge of what has come before and adapting these based on different backgrounds in learning, inspiration and beliefs. Western herbalists draw on a huge spectrum of models in how they practice, including eastern traditions, western science, the ayurvedic model and western energetics.
These two traditions are practiced daily in Bali, both in homes and in the numerous workshops and individual efforts to learn more about herbal life from a nutritional, scientific, energetic and spiritual perspective. Bali is indeed a good place for connecting with herbal life!