June 7: National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Please note that yesterday was Gardening Exercise Day. If you observed it, you have our permission to indulge in an extra scoop of ice cream.
June 11: St. Barnabas Day. The patron saint of peacemakers. Traditionally, the day to make a Barnaby garland of roses, sweet woodruff, and ragged Robin (aka wild William).
June 14: Flag Day. Fly ours.
June 19. Juneteenth. Celebrating the end of slavery and the beginning of a long, difficult road to racial justice in America.
June 20: Father’s Day. Also, the summer solstice—the official beginning of summer.
June 22: National Onion Rings Day. Yes, onions are an herb, too—and good for you, (although not necessarily when they’re deep-fried).
June 23: St. John’s Eve, a traditional European celebration of Midsummer’s magic
June 27: National Orange Blossom Day. It’s also National Indian Pudding Day.
June 28. Another pudding celebration: National Tapioca Day.
July 4. Our Independence Day. A day to be red, white, blue and a rainbow of other colors–and proud of all the many people we are.
We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week . . .
The bottom is out of the Universe.
—Rudyard Kipling, “Natural Theology,” 1889
Tea: The Real Deal
According to Chinese legend, the first cup of tea was brewed about five thousand years ago by Shen Nong, aka The Divine Cultivator. One day, he was boiling water outdoors when leaves of a nearby plant (it happened to be Camellia sinensis) blew off a bush and plopped into the water. The Divine Cultivator tasted the brew and found that it hit the spot. A cup of tea was soon on everyone’s table.
The Buddhists explain things differently. The monk Dharuma practiced meditation all day long. One drowsy afternoon, he found his eyelids drooping. So keep this from happening again, he sliced them off and threw them away. A tea plant sprang up where they fell, and after a little trial and error, Dharuma discovered the secret of brewing its leaves into a drink that would keep him awake—although one has to suppose that he learned to sleep with his eyes open.
Tea became known in Europe in the 1600s, as merchant ships made their way to the Orient and back again The sprightly stimulant became immediately popular and a brisk trade developed. Tea helped to precipitate at least one war (the American Revolution began with the Boston Tea Party), served several governments as currency, and helped to build the British Empire. Americans have done their fair share, too. They invented iced tea (first served at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904) and the tea bag (first used in 1908 in New York City by Thomas Sullivan). The origins of instant tea are a bit more murky. The Old Foodie offers one peek into its history.
Tea isn’t just a delicious stimulant. In the last few decades, scientists have compiled a convincing dossier of its medicinal virtues. Tea is reported help to protect the arteries against cholesterol clogs; inhibit the growth of cancers of the colon, stomach, and breast; reduce inflammation; and neutralize many viruses. You can drink black tea or green tea, hot tea or iced tea, with or without caffeine. But do drink brewed tea; scientists say that bottled tea and instant tea don’t have as many antioxidants. Herbal teas have different health benefits; you’ll want to check them out, as well.
And Kipling was right, of course. No tea for a week would turn our world upside down!
Make your own Barnaby garland of flowers blooming in your garden. You’ll find directions for a fresh flower garland here—adapt it to the pretty flowers and herbs in your own garden. Children will love this charming craft.
Overdid it on Garden Exercise Day? Essential oils can help ease those sore muscles, reduce swelling. Here are some suggestions.
Celebrate Father’s Day with a picnic. Try some of these scrumptious herbal picnic basket treats from Lynn Smyth’s post in the Essential Herbal Blog. (Love that rosemary shortbread recipe!) And don’t forget to pack Dad’s favorite cookies, Ruby Wilcox’s Hot Lips Cookie Crisps? (China gets more requests for this recipe than any other.)
Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom and achievement and encourages respect for all cultures. For this year’s Juneteenth, enjoy an authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Easy marinade (green onions, garlic, jalapeño, lime juice, allspice, thyme, cinnamon) produces a spicy-sweet blend of flavors.
On National Onion Rings Day, listen to Susan’s podcast on the magical, magnetic onion. (You’ll learn thing or two that you didn’t know about onions.)
On St. John’s Eve, read Susan’s story of St. John’s wort, an herb that owes its Christian name to a pagan midsummer celebration that routed out the devil.
Learn about the history of Indian pudding and stir up this all-American dessert. “What’s Cooking America” is always a wonderful culinary-history resource.
Check out the Food Timeline’s history of tapioca, which is made from the carb-rich root of the cassava plant, processed to remove the naturally-occuring cynanide. For tapioca recipes from around the world, sample Yummy’s great collection.
On our Fourth, we always have the traditional fried chicken and potato salad. Looking for new ways to celebrate a holiday that’s almost as old as our country? Try these.
Find out what Susan is up to these days by visiting her blog, Lifescapes. There’s always something interesting going on in the Texas Hill Country. On her “other” blog, BookScapes, she posts book reviews, bookish thoughts, and notes on the fast-changing world of books