This past weekend, I visited Arkansas for the Herb Harvest Festival at the Ozark Folk Center. The Herb Harvest Festival is held annually in the fall. It is a great time to visit the Ozarks and share the company of people who are passionate about herbs and food. Hats off to everyone who made this event a success!
This year, the festival focused on the herbs and food ways of Coastal Africa and how these ways interchanged with Americas/Ozark Region. Particularly think of Southern cooking and cuisine--watermelon, peanuts, clabbered milk (buttermilk), yams, black eyed peas, and okra. African herbs influence us as well. Have you ever enjoyed a cup of caffeine-free Red Bush Tea (also known as Rooibos)? This tea is only grown in a very specific area of Africa. Several herbal supplements we enjoy in America are grown in Africa.
Merry Schepers and I spoke about dairy products made in Africa with specific emphasis on demonstration of yogurt and a Nigerian-style farm cheese called "Wara." We explored the history, science and health benefits of these foods. I was particularly intrigued to learn the science of coagulation. For wara, the plant Calotropis procera is traditionally used to coagulate the milk. Other plants can be used for coagulation, too--pineapple, papaya, lemon, and even latex of the fig tree! In yogurt, the bacteria produce lactic acid, and it is the acid that causes milk coagulation.
Pictured above are African kola nuts wrapped in a leaf. These plant has been used to make coca-cola. By themselves, they can certain give you a "buzz". Aren't they beautiful?
Merry and I travelled back to Tulsa on Sunday. We entered the city as dusk was settling. After being among the trees, rolling hills, and fantastic herbal community this weekend, my heart dropped a little when I saw the city skyline. Luckily, I live and work in areas with several trees, but I still long to return to the Ozarks.