It’s been a tough year for most of our growing friends- especially ones who grow plants used for medicines. Many had to make challenging decisions due to the exceptionally dry conditions. Our friend Kat, joining us today from LA today is no exception. Without optimal soil nourishment, the drought had her thinking twice about how she’d be wise with her resources this season, yet still grow the healing plants she’s known for providing the greater Los Angeles community. We caught up with Kat in her medicinal garden for a chat on what her season looked like.
Garden Eats: What new herbs or plants are you growing this year Kat?
Kat: We’re growing a few new varieties this year that will add to the resiliency of our gardens. One was gifted to us by a friend, an Ice Cream Bean tree (Inga edulis), which is a fast-growing, nitrogen- fixing and drought-tolerant shade tree that bares bean pods after about three years. The pods are filled with beans and surrounding them is this cottony white filling that tastes like ice cream.
We also incorporated anise hyssop, valerian, white yarrow, coyote mint and mullein to add to the medicinal varieties in our garden. The mullein was started from seed that I wild-harvested- there’s nothing like growing something that you’ve picked up along your travels and it seems to be happiest after I mimicked the wild space where I collected the seeds by placing some rocks near them.
One of the new wildflower seed varieties we sowed this year was desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and it proved to be more resilient than any of our other wildflowers like CA poppies, scarlet flax flowers and cornflowers.
GE: Has anything surprised you in the garden in light of the drought and intense heat?
One of my main practices as a gardener and wildcrafter is observation. I spend a lot of time in wild spaces observing how plants thrive and die together as the seasons transition and our climates changes. It teaches me what and where to plant for resiliency when cultivating a garden. I don’t find myself being surprised because I’m experiencing the changes as they happen as opposed to being detached and then visiting after a long time, I think that’s when ‘surprises’ happen more often, when you’re not staying in tune with your environment.
GE: I like that- great perspective. How is the drought affecting your growing diversity?
Kat: We’ve made the decision to not grow any new veggies that require lots of water, until our landscape adopts a full greywater system, which is in the works.
The four edible bearing plants that have done really well and keep providing for us in this drought with very little water have been our Globe artichokes, Hopi red dye amaranth, Desert Delight nectarine tree, Peruvian Apple cactus, sunflowers, and Meyer lemon tree.
GE: All hydrosols and distillates are distilled in an alembic still and contain diluted essential oils from the natural distilling process. Can you tell us about your distillation process?
Kat: I’ve been waiting for someone to ask this question because I really take pride in our distillation process. We distill all plants at a very low temperature. The first 8 ounces of liquid that is rendered contains the most essential oils- we ensure that every bottle gets at least 10 percent of that first batch to heighten each bottle’s potency.
GE: Fave hydrosol for post-sun? We love the myrtle!
Kat: Yes, right now Myrtle is my favorite for post-sun relief. Its aroma is fresh, sweet and slightly camphoraceous. Also, thanks to Myrtle’s mucilage actions it not only soothes sun-soaked skin it also protects it. I also love how its energetics reset your overall state of mind, it’s literally like a ‘reset’ button.
GE: Did we hear right- you’ve got an apothecary in the works? Will you specialize in seasonal medicinal herbs?
Kat: I’ve branded my gardening and herbal practice as EcoKatLA because that’s how folks connect my work to my face, thanks to social media. Our apothecary will be called SummerHouse ’52! Cause, that’s the actual name of the structure and we’d like to pay homage to the builders by keeping that name. The building is a studio that is behind our house and is surrounded by gardens that will serve as teaching and demonstration sites. We plan to carry a range of local and seasonal medicinal herbs and goods, foster a place where folks can gather and learn about herbalism and gardening, provide a space for other herbalists to host workshops and to use larger tools that they may not have access to, one on one healing consultations and so much more!
GE: Can’t wait to come back for its grand opening! Thanks for popping in Kat!
K A T H L E E N Sanchez is a Los Angeles County certified master gardener, wildcrafter and herbalist promoting emotional, spiritual and physical health through nature. Visit her site and healing shop here.