Eats: An herbal legend? — Fresh and flavorful Streaked Mountain Herbs gaining fans
Ruth DeCoster, Special to the Sun Journal
Sunday, June 23, 2013
As I write this, I must admit both my body and soul are relaxing and humming along quite happily, thanks to a delightful, steaming cup of herbal tea I just brewed. This lovely blend of nettles, milky oats, lemon balm and peppermint is produced by Robin Rockett of Streaked Mountain Herbs and Crafts.
Rockett, who perhaps is better known in local circles as a clinical social worker, grows the herbs needed to mix up her popular Body & Soul Herbal Tea at her small herb farm at 19 Allen Road in Turner.
“This is the BEST tea EVER,” states one of Rockett’s customers on Facebook. “Good for so many things. Never felt so balanced as with this infusion.”
As I sip, I believe I know what she means.
“Why is this tea so popular?” I asked Rockett.
“Because it tastes fantastic!” is her quick and emphatic reply. And because the tea, like several other blends she creates, “has so many medicinal purposes!” she said.
Sippers of her Body & Soul tea receive extra doses of vitamin C and iron. “It makes a great spring tonic,” she said, and its natural antihistamine properties help with allergies. Milky oats are considered a tonic for the nervous system, and nettles have long been viewed as an anti-inflammatory.
Her part-time career as an herb farmer and herbalist began in 2002 when she planted the first four of many raised garden beds. She later admitted she found herb farming much more rewarding than growing vegetables, leading her to launch Streaked Mountain Herbs and Crafts in 2009.
When her children were young, she had dabbled in herb growing with chamomile and echinacea, an herb long viewed as an immune system booster, helpful for fighting off colds and the flu. Rockett has since spent an innumerable amount of time studying herbs and their nutritional, therapeutic and medicinal affects on the body. “I’ve studied both formally and informally,” she said.
Another of her teas is Tummy Tonic, made with lemon balm (a very calming and relaxing herb, she said) and peppermint (“a carminative herb,” she said, “meaning it is good for the digestive system.”
Another popular tea, Tension Tamer, is a simple blend of catnip, chamomile and lemon balm.
With up to 10 teas in her repertoire, Rockett often helps clients target specific herbs to specific areas of concern. She said she has become a firm believer in the old adage by Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
The freshness of the dried herbs is critical to creating good flavor in Streaked Mountain products. “The flavor of dried herbs can vary tremendously,” Rockett pointed out. With the herbs she grows at the farm, Rockett has learned to calculate the optimum day in their growing cycle to harvest, and knows the best time of day to catch them at their peak. “They’re all super fresh — I’m picking them at the height of freshness.”
She has also perfected the art of quickly drying her herbs. With a dedicated drying room (dark and cool, with a fan to create air circulation), she said, “I can dry them fast. My dried herbs are bright green.”
Along with her recipe blend for the Body & Soul tea, Rockett shared with readers today two other simple and quite easy ways to play with herbs, both fresh and dried: her Heavenly Herb Dipping Oil and a chicken stir-fry made with fresh basil.
Rockett said her recipe for the oil has really evolved over time, based on customer feedback. She said straight extra-virgin olive oil is OK to use in the recipe, but through trial and error, she has discovered she prefers the flavor of a blended oil — half extra-virgin and half “pure” olive oil (a more refined version) that tempers the stronger flavor of the extra-virgin. She also prefers to purchase only olive oils produced in Italy, since that country has banned the use of pesticides and toxic chemicals. In her own farming, she said, she has “gone organic all the way,” which she believes is especially important when it comes to treating ailments.
Mostly used as a dipping oil for fresh, crusty bread, the herbed oil can also be added to rice while cooking, used as the base of a homemade salad dressing, or as a steak marinade.
If you’re not quite inclined to dry and grind your own herbs, Rockett usually sells that dipping oil, and other blends, at her monthly markets for $9. For those of us who’d like a cup of tea on demand — without, again, having to grow, harvest, dry and grind our own herbs — Streaked Mountain teas are available at market for $5 to $6 per tin.
In an unrelated note, Rockett also receives many accolades from customers for her herbal products, including White Pine Salve, Move Your Lymph massage oil and her Wicked Good Bug Spray, all concocted with natural ingredients.
She plans to set up twice a month this summer at farmers’ markets: At the Fox School farmers’ market in South Paris on the second Saturday, and at the Lewiston farmers’ market on the second Sunday. She said she will also occasionally appear at the Poland farmers’ market, located at the Square Root Natural Food Store.
If you miss her at the summer markets, look for many of her products at Forage and Downtown Vintage and Handmade, both on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, and at Nezinscot Farm in Turner.
And if you keep your eyes open, you might find Rockett sharing her vast knowledge of all things herbal at a workshop — perhaps at Turner High School, Chill Yoga in Lewiston, Healed Within Holistic Health Center in Norway or at Revelation Massage in Auburn.
Meanwhile, my one cup of tea (which left me wanting more) is long gone. Time to brew another pot.