Marie Saretsky is doing what women of a certain age have done for generations: she’s passing on what she has learned over a lifetime. I attended her tea workshop in Burr, Sask., last week and tasted 12 different hand-harvested teas. With each, I learned where the plant grows, when and how it’s harvested, its medicinal properties and what it looks, smells and feels like when dried.
“I enjoy tea,” Marie said, “and began wondering what grows here that I could harvest, brew and drink. Then the 100-mile diet became popular, and I was encouraged even more.” After years of experimentation, studying and asking questions, she felt ready to pass on what she’s learned.
Marie is known in the Prairies for her garden business, Flowers of Dellwood Creek
Summer bring busloads of people from Regina and Saskatoon to visit her
garden. In the autumn, her dried flowers, herbal bath infusions and
handmade paper are sold at craft sales and city shops. As farm children
in Ontario, she and her brother, Jim, managed their own large garden.
They earned spending money by selling produce to motorists on the nearby
highway. Marie later became a registered nurse, but healing through
gardening has been her life’s path.
The tea workshop was fun,
interesting and useful. Gather women around a teapot, add homemade
cookies and it will be a good time. I was surprised to learn about
calendula, which I’ve grown for years. I didn’t know that the bright
gold flowers I placed in vases could also go into homemade healing
ointments, tea and salads. I next learned that flax seed tea will soothe
and cleanse my urinary tract and that stinging nettle tea, sacred to
the Saxons, builds energy. Plantain, another herb the Saxons called
sacred, is good for the skin. Cree medicines include rose hip tea, which
is good for many ailments including colds.
It was fun to share
stories and to wonder aloud. Who, for example, called dandelions “weeds”
and proclaimed them enemies? Dandelions, from leaves to roots, are
blessings. English settlers brought them to Canada to grow in kitchen
gardens for medicines, teas, salads and cooked greens. I loved the
roasted dandelion root tea. During the Great Depression, it was a common
We learned that hardy perennial peppermint
plants grow well in pots or gardens. Peppermint, which gives two or
three cuttings per season, is best harvested just before it flowers
since that is when the leaves are richest in essential oils. A
peppermint tea bag in a pot of steaming water can be inhaled to relieve
congestion. It’s good for your liver, and will settle your stomach,
relieve your body odour and aid digestion. All that and it’s delicious
During the workshop, I glanced out the window at the thick
blanket of snow and relished my hot drink. It was Prairie summer in a
teacup, passed on to a new generation.
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