Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Rose Garden

The Bench

There is still no rose in site, but this is my soon-to-be rose garden.
It has a bench, so what else does it need (well, a few roses wouldn't hurt).
But firs I must do some research and find the exact roses I wish to plant here. First and foremost I am on the hunt for those used extensively in perfumery: Rosa damascena and Rosa centifolia. Then I must find some hardy hybrid tea roses and old English roses that would withstand the hot and dry climate here. And they must smell amazing and also have impressive looks. I would rather wait till I find the right ones rather than plant the wrong ones and waste precious plot space...

The area for the rose garden used to be an enclosed area where some of my tenants (without any permission) built for a little herd of goats. It looked like a disaster when they lived here, and it was hard to kick them out. The tenants that followed were super nice, stayed for many years, and took advange of the freshly fertilized soil to make a little vegetable garden. It only has  two small plots, and is sitting too far behind the house to be practical for a vegetable garden, in my humble opinion. So I planted a vegetable garden right next to my house (on the sunny east side next to the Pilates studio). And these two plots I'm planning to fill with at least six rose bushes. Then I will also add a bird bath or a sundial (or both), and climber roses in all corners. It makes the perfect, hidden, romantic spot to sit on; but also my preferred spot for  for sitting and meditating, burning incense, and enjoying a few hours of shade in the hot summer mornings, and quiet reflection in the evening. Maybe even a moon garden if I find the right mix of plants that won't overshadow the rosiness during the day.

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My New Love

Wild Israeli Thyme (Coridothymus capitatus) on the rocky north coast 
They met by the sandstone cliff overlooking the Mediterranean sea and the Lebanese border. He was there waiting for her for a while, and already found entire colonies of Coridothymus capitatus (Israeli Thyme). He held the little sprigs gently to her nose, allowing her to inhale its clean, warm, spicy, wild scent of mountains; exotic yet at the same time with the strong homecoming reassurance of za'atar in all its mundane glory.

Under the sandstone cliff there was a half-cave, protected from the wind and from prying eyes. And there he lay a straw mat and simmered water in a portable kettle with an improvised wooden handle on his little gas burner. From his knapsack he extracted what seems like a whole apothecary - little containers of dried herbs from his garden, raw brown sugar, yerbamate.

In they went, after he carefully examined each herb, as if communing shortly to see if it's the right leaf or twig, recalling the exact branch from which he picked them and which sunny spot in the garden they soaked up their healing powers: marjoram...wild white mint...thymbra...lemongrass... sensing which is right for this evening of almost-full-moon, and finishing off with the delicate spearmint, so it does not scorch.
Coridothymus capitatus

This entire brew was then poured into a fine little gourd finjan which was packed with dry mate. They sipped it from a delicate silver straw - savouring the mingled herbs and the astringent, tobacco-like mate.

The almost-full-moon lit the top of the salty waves with white streaks of light, competing with the red dots that lit along the sea-border. Maybe that is the time when love potions are supposed to be taken. When the moon is only almost full, so there can be a rerun the next night and the next?

Slowly their hearts opened and got closer. Or maybe it was just the poison of thymol seeping in through their veins and making them more brave than common sense would suggest. Or perhaps it was a metaphoric counter balance to the two dark silhouettes of the IDF navy boat patrolling the north frontier, approaching each other, ignoring each other, merging with one another. Blacking out.

Whether the thymol is their poison or medicine, they're yet to find out. For now let them enjoy the salty air mingled with juicy watermelon and coridothymus' floral, warm and cleansing purifying aura that erases from the heart all such worries.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Little Herb Garden

Treasures from the mountain

The last two weeks I've delved right into exploring the medicinal wild plants that grow around here. For a short time I had a herbalist to show and share with me some of this wealth of plant wisdom. Now that this guide is gone, I'm lead only by the pleasantly infectious inspiration. There is an overwhelming abundance that is going to provide me with a lifetime of learning (according to Floral Palestina, this land is blessed with close to 2,700 species of wild plants!). I've been hiking in the surrounding areas and conservatively collecting branches for slips and re-planting in my little herbal garden. This of course will is part of the Perfumer's Botanical Garden I'm establishing around the studio.

I'm showing you the early beginning, although they look quite unimpressive on camera. In person they have the charm of new beginnings as well as virgin strip of land and stony terrain and distant view of the Mediterranean; I am also delighted by the gentle healing energy that emanates from the plants for those who connect to these types of being. And for those who find it more difficult to connect to plants that way - the scents that each provide speak for themselves. Even a little stroke on each plant will give off the scent and you can mix and match to create your own "finger perfume".

Morning in the medicinal herb garden

From the wild, I've adopted some amazing plants - both old and new to me, that grow on the mountain behind my house. So all in all, my botanical collection is rapidly growing - even beyond the original wishlist I've created. And I'm rather happy with it.

From my slip foraging, I managed to keep alive a couple of types of germanders - Cretan germander (Teucrium creticum), which looks a lot like rosemary but smells completely different - more like olive leaf, actually, and likewise has an intensely bitter taste; and cat-thyme germander (Teucrium capitatum), which has a sweet, almost resinous fragrant silvery foliage. The latter is highly medicinal and rivals only the local wild sage (Salvia fruticosa), more of the Savory of Crete (Satureja thymbra) and a similar plant, with an almost identical flavour and fragrance that has flowers with a structure similar to Lavandula dentata, which is called Spiked Savoury (Thymbra spicata). It would be difficult to find information online in English on many of these plants because they are unique to Israel.  I've also adopted some cistus plants, although they are not the Cistus ladaniferus I am seeking but two other local species that are not as resinous, yet somewhat fragrant depending on the season. And I am crossing my fingers that two seedlings of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) that my herbalist guide carefully uprooted from the wadi (dry creek) floor, will also survive and make it to the miniature forest I want to create behind the perfume studio. And most immortally - I am hoping that the two little twigs of Israeli Thyme (Coridothymus capitatus) that we found on the rocky North beach will grow up some roots and flourish. They are quite rare site here inland, and in fact a protected species. They have a striking look when they get mature and an intense yet slightly floral aroma that I love. It truly deserves a post of its own, with photos and all. Along with Origanum syriacum (also grown in my garden), the other varieties of thyme and savoury I mentioned before, some sumac and sesame seeds it forms the spice mixture called "Za'atar" that some of you may be familiar with from Lebanese grocery stores and Middle Eastern restaurants.

Thymbra spicata צתרנית משובלת

Naturally growing wild in my garden is also white horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a highly medicinal plant that grows in astounding abundance, several mastic bushes and probably more plants that I did not know were medicinal but will find out later. There are also still two plants that I found on the mountain to make slips that I haven't identified yet, so the search is not over. Lastly, I scattered seeds of blood helicrysum, a local wild plant (Helichrysum sanguinum) which I also hope will come out next winter. By that time I hope I will forget about it altogether so it will just be a pleasant surprise...

Dam HaMakabim (Helicrysum sanguinum) coming into seed

Lastly, to be fair and square, I promised to tell you which plants I put in from the nursery (the ones my brother brought me), so that you know if you guessed it right. They were several types of lavender (mountain Savory of Crete (Satureja thymbra), several types of lavender (Lavandula pinnate, L. dentate, L. angustifolia), one artemisia and - to my utmost excitement - two immortelles (Helicrysum italicum), often called "curry plant".

Morning in the medicinal herb garden

Also you should know, that among those who participated in this context, we got two worthy winners who will receive a sample kit of all my herbaceous fragrances,  are Ruby Clover and Melissa Menard. The kit includes ArbitRary for the basil, Ayalitta for the sage, Immortelle l'Amour for the immortelle of course, l'Herbe Rouge for the lemongrass, hay and lavender and Lovender - which is quite obvious. I've also included a sniff-peak of Inbar, my new, wild-oregano infused amber concoction which is not even for sale quite yet :-)

Putting together the kits made me also realize how little attention I've been giving the herbaceous notes.



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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Capers


Caper plant (Capparis spinosa)
Legend has it that the caper plants originate in the Western Wall, where the little folded letters containing the prayers, dreams and promises of the pilgrims are transformed into beautiful white caper blossoms, blooming for a day and sending the prayers to heaven.

Many of the prayers are of barren couples who beg for a child of their own. Perhaps that is why these caper flowers are considered a remedy for fertility, as are the roots of the the plant. But this is only one of the many medicinal qualities attributed to capers in herbal and folk medicines. I will only highlight a few that I read about: The entire plant parts (root, leaves, fruit) were used as remedy for toothache, and an infusion of the fruit after it has been boiled in water is considered to aid those suffering from diabetes. The fruit and the root, when ground up, are placed for short periods on aching joints to relieve joint pain (long exposure of the skin will create burns). Despite all its many therapeutic values, caper is not a very common plant in the modern pharmacopeia -perhaps because of the emphasis on it as a culinary item.

Caper (Capparis spinosa) buds on the bush
The pickled capers most people are familiar with are the buds of Capparis spinosaIt grows here in the wild, and quite in abundance. What's special about it is that it blooms all summer long, from May through September - an unusual quality in those scorching months, which on its own alludes to nearly magical qualities.

Soaking caper buds for pickling

My first jar which I've pickled about three weeks ago turned to be quite the delicacy, so I thought I'd better hurry and go get some more buds before the season is over. As it turns out - in the meantime, the plants developed their fruit (AKA caper berries). They look like plump and short cucumbers are also very pickle-able, as are the leaves and stems of this plant.

Caper berries

I was pleased to learn that the blooming season is rather long, and will continue all summer. The hardiness of the plants around here to the arid conditions is amazing to me. I can barely survive a hot day and they can endure all summer with very little water from dew and that which is found deep in the crevices of rocks.

Capers has interesting history and uses - both culinary and medicinal. The famous "Cypriot wine" mentioned in the Talmud as well as in the Jewish daily prayer (used in the preparation of incense) was intact wine made of capers.

Capers have a unique flavour that is a tad mustard-like which develops while they pickle and release the glucocamparin (mustard oil) within them. Through the picking process, white or violet coloured dots will form on the buds, which contain the citrus flavalnol ruin, which is also dominant in asparagus, buckwheat flour and black raspberry. The stems can be added to yogurt, and both the stems and leaves can be pickled and added to salads.

Recipe for pickling capers:
The hardest part about this task is the actual harvest: the bushes are equipped with hook-shaped thorns that are quite vicious. Once you endured a few of these claws-in-flesh encounters, and collected enough caper buds or berries, soak them in water for three days, changing the water daily.

To pickle, sterilize a clean jar by rinsing with boiling water, fill with the capers, and cover with the salt and vinegar solution:

1/2 cup filtered or spring water
1/2 cup appel cider vinegar 
1 Tbs salt

Season with:
2-4 Bay leaves 
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds, whole 
(Both are local spices, so to speak, that grow wild)

Marinate for one week, then keep refrigerated. The pickled buds can be used as a flavourful garnish to sandwiches to offset fatty elements such as cheese and smoked salmon. It's great as an addition to salads, marinates, stuffed vegetables, and just to eat on their own on the side with ripe watermelon or charcuterie. It can also be used to make tartar sauce, pasta sauce (spaghetti ala puttanesca, anyone?) - and just anything else your imagination may take you to.

As for the pickled caper berries (or fruit) - I have one more week to wait till they are ready. So will report later.

Pickling capers


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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Herbaceous Contest

Ready for Planting

This is my dear brother's contribution to my botanical garden. Can you guess which perfume and medicinal herbs are just about to be planted?
Hint: I am very excited about them!
Post your guess here and enter to win a sampler kit of perfumes I made that contain herbs I have planted so far in my garden!

Those who answered most correctly will be entered into the draw, and the winners will be announced on Monday.

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Coming Into Seed

Coming Into Seed
The rainy season came and went, the explosion of spring flowers has quieted down, and was replaced by lacy white flowers from the carrot family. Now that the rain stopped completely, we seems to be entering a period of gradual death. First some of the wild oats has taken the bright colour of gold, and bit by bit all the lush green wile plants are changing into the summer foliage: slimmer, and at times thorny leaves that will prevent loss of moisture in the upcoming months.

Artedia squamata
I've been through this season at least twenty times before, but never experienced it this way. There is so much beauty in this late spring, entering summertime. The intolerable heat of summer is inevitable but it is not here quite yet. And there are still plenty of flowers: hollyhocks, lacy white doilies of wild carrots, Queen Anne's Lace and many other from the umbellifera family. The tiny ones look like floating bubbles, the medium ones stick together to form bridal gowns of the wildest designs, and the largest of all make a fashion statement like an Italian straw hat that a famous actress would wear.

Artedia squamata

All of the spring flowers (except of the late bloomers that are still churning up pollen and nectar) have already gone to seeds. My brothers and I are collecting some of our favourites (e.g., Ricotia lunaria) and spread them around so they will grow in more places next year. There is magic in knowing that within all that dry death that came upon the flowers - there is promise for much life and continuity next year. It somehow makes me feel better about my grandmother too.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Early Beginnings

Perfumer's Garden - Mountain Path

Do not mistake my lack of posting for lack of action. It's been quite the opposite - the most action-packed few months of my life. Here is what I've accomplished - to put your minds at ease and satisfy any curiosity that might have remained among those of you who haven't given up on SmellyBlog yet:

- Designed, planned agonized over and built a new Perfume studio, Pilates studio - and renovated my old home) while making new friends with the builders and architects involved
- Lived in a yurt for 4 months (November through March) while I was at it - and also found myself adopting a cat of all creatures (not intentional, but seems to work out)
- Transitioned my daughter into a Hebrew-speaking high school for another two years of education
- Moved from the yurt to the house
- Adopted a rescued female Doberman (that was a dream come true)
- Taught two Perfumery Courses back to back: Fougere and Orientals (while meeting with Dan Riegler - a Canadian- Israeli from Ontario who gifted me with the most incredible incense resins imaginable - more on that in a separate post
- Became auntie to one more niece and nephew (that was quite effortless!)
- Continue to try and establish my perfumery studio (and Pilates studio) in the new surroundings
- Try my best to be with my grandma, who's 93 years young and had a heart event about a month ago. Every moment with her is so pure and precious.
- Planning and beginning to plant my Perfumer's Botanical Garden, which is truly taking much of my time and is the main reason I haven't been blogging. The photo above is from the section of it that is on the mountain and is dedicated to fragrant Mediterranean plans and medicine herbs.

I spend very little time around the computer (after months of wifi & electricity-free yurt life and bad battery in my laptop - old habits have been broken to little shreds and I only post quick updates via my phone on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts)
Hopefully I've gotten to the point when I'm settled down to return to regular blogging - as demanding as life has been all these months, I know deep in my heart that it does do me good to write regularly. It's not just a fragrance/perfumery blog, but also functions as a personal journal to me.

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