Marlene Adelmann is the founder and director at The Herbal Academy. She has been everything from a caterer, mother, and teacher and has made sure to include herbs in every facet of her world. Adelmann is a wonderful wealth of knowledge of all things herbal and is now teaching at The Herbal Academy in New England as well as structuring classes, lessons, and everything in between.
Did being a vegetarian influence your initial interest in herbs?
Yes, I think it did. When you are working with plants as your main food substance, it is easy to get absorbed in their beauty and wonder. I tend to eat and prepare food first on a healing basis and secondly for taste and pleasure. That is not to say that healing foods are not deliciously scrumptious—because they are—it is to say that the deliciousness is an uncalculated bonus most of the time. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs are interchangeable in many ways, perhaps not in a classical sense, but I prepare many herbs as food and use fruits and vegetables in remedies.
How did your catering company influence your herbal practice?
Aside from the obvious answer about working with herbs in culinary creations, my catering career gave me real, practical tools for my life as an herbalist today. Catering was the hardest work I have done to date and that includes raising three children! I learned to hear what wasn’t being said in catering consultations so I could determine what my client was really asking for and deliver it. I learned how to work in many different environments—inside, outside, on a boat, on a beach, in a church, in the woods. I set up makeshift kitchens, and worked in galley kitchens and in kitchens bigger than my home! Most importantly, I learned to be resourceful. If a client wanted a chimpanzee to answer the door for guests, you can believe I was going to figure out how to get one.
As the director of the Academy, I have to steer a lot of people in the right direction, but I also have to be keenly aware of different personalities and pick up on clues that may be floating around but not being verbalized so every situation can be addressed appropriately. A good herbalist is a good listener for what is being said and not said. As an herbalist, I find myself in many unusual environments and I am well equipped to accommodate these circumstances. I am just as at home in someone’s living room as I am in a tree house. Running the school in our physical space as well as in our online environment, there have been many times when we have been called on to make things happen in one way or another. If something goes wrong or breaks, we have to solve it as quickly as possible. Students depend on us to come up with quality material and a comfortable platform from which to work. We have listened and responded in a way that we think fills a need!
How do you balance your herb usage? What herbs are for culinary use and what herbs do you use medicinally?
Hmm, I don’t think balance is part of my vocabulary when it comes to herbs. I use herbs in a very unbalanced way. In fact, if the herbs I use on a regular basis accumulated on only one side of my body, I would be walking with one hand swiping the ground! So, there are many herbs that I use in the kitchen that has no flavor enhancement abilities whatsoever—I mean none. They are dreadful taste companions but they offer superb nutritional value or they are tonic and immune boosting, so they go into the omelet or the soup or the salad for good reason and good measure. The culinary herbs that are gorgeously tasteful are used skillfully to elevate the dish, but they too add powerful nutrients and antioxidants. Yes, there are certainly herbs that should be used in moderation, but many herbs are pretty compatible with regular use. Some of my favorites to use both medicinally and culinarily include rosemary, nettles, oregano, turmeric, basil, garlic, ginger, fennel, licorice root, sage, sumac, mint, rose, lavender and dandelion. I will add other medicinal herbs like ashwaganda root, astragalus and echinacea if not for good taste, certainly for good measure.
You can read the rest of the interview in our July/August issue. Here is a link where you can subscribe: http://www.essentialherbal.com/item/Subscription---Print-2