Shawnee News-Star Sunday Article January 28th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg Pardon me as I find my way around a new keyboard and laptop. Make that a double pardon. My next few days involve sorting out and updating the Oklahoma Master Naturalist (OMN) membership list. Our OMN webmaster disappeared early last year and took our entire […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday Article January 28th 2018

Wax Plaque of Hildegard

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Pardon me as I find my way around a new keyboard and laptop. Make that a double pardon. My next few days involve sorting out and updating the Oklahoma Master Naturalist (OMN) membership list. Our OMN webmaster disappeared early last year and took our entire website and pages with her, the cad. It has been an experience creating a public website using my pictures and adding brief descriptions of the Master Naturalist program. The good thing is many of our devoted naturalists have stayed with us while the system is being tediously reconstructed. All people that dig nature are great.

Over 900 years ago lived a nun who believed that nature should not be mangled or destroyed. She wrote 72 songs, 70 poems, 9 books and 360 letters to people in and out of the church filled with parables, metaphors and visual images. The woman's lettering and artwork showed a curious Celtic influence. Born in 1098, Hildegard was the 10th child of a knight. One story is the noble family's baby daughter was pledged to the church in lieu of a tenth of their income! So, at eight years of age little Hildegard was taken to the Benedictine Celtic Monastery at Disibodenberg for her education and training. Saint Disibod was an Irish monk on a pilgrimage who ended up in western Germany about 640. The monastery honoring the saint was built after he died. Hildegard took her vows at the age of 18 and lived at Disibodenberg for forty years. After having a vision demanding her to move, Hildegard, with 18 nuns in tow (over strong objections from the monks), traveled to Rupertsberg near Bingen to establish her first convent that was completed in 1150. Their mission was to care for the sick. Hildegard wrote two outstanding medical works. The monastery outgrew its bounds and in 1165 the 67year old Abbess founded a second monastery (upsetting more monks) across the river near Eibingen.

This extraordinary mystic wrote copious articles, drew, and even composed music, putting boring chants to beautiful melodies. Hildegard was one of the earliest to write about the natural history of Germany. She studied organisms and their environment, learned about medicinal properties of plants, animals and minerals, spoke of social injustices, and felt every human being should be given a chance to achieve their full potential. She exclaimed 'Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you've got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You're a world"everything is hidden within you.'

Disibodenberg and Rupertsberg are now in ruins, but the Parish and Pilgrim Church of Saint Hildegard in Eibingen, completed in 1935, stands at the exact place as did Hildegard's abbey. In 1941 the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard was built higher on the hill on the former monastic lands. Concerts are held periodically. The nuns make wine and various craft items and sing ancient songs written by Hildegard.

For years I have admired Hildegard. We had something in common: migraine headaches. She had remarkable visions; I just hope to survive to see another day. The wax plaque picture is a memento of a Volksmarch we did outside Bingen. Hildegard remains popular in many circles. I am not the only one fascinated with her; Dr. Michael DeBakey was in awe of Hildegard's amazing knowledge of medicine.

The Recipe

Dr. DeBakey was the cardiac surgeon (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX) who operated on my dad at a time the bypass operation was considered somewhat experimental. The triple bypass and my father's adjustment to a new lifestyle added 15 additional years to his life. Dr. DeBakey himself had used Hildegard's remedies with great success. He felt the spicy root of galangal strengthened his heart. His research indicated seventy percent of all heart attack patients die in the first few hours after a massive heart attack. His advice was try galangal because it may improve blood supply to the heart and blood vessels. Hildegard described galangal as a good heart medicine for whoever had pain or weakness in the heart.

Galangal root (Alpinia galangal) resembles its cousin ginger but its flavor is biting with citrus or camphor overtones. The root is used in Thai cooking. I may have eaten galangal in some Pad Thai, but the Hildegard tonic I often prepare not only helps the circulatory system but strengthens general health, especially during cold and flu season. Hildegard's Parsley Honeywine is easy to concoct, no caldron needed.

Getting Prepared

Purchase white wine, bunches of parsley, vinegar and raw honey. Certain times of the year my parsley is rather sparse or non-existent. Parsley (Petroselinum sp.) is a familiar herb of Mediterranean origin that finds its way into all kinds of dishes. Not only does it add fresh flavor, the herb is an effective diuretic with anti-inflammatory properties that can quell arthritis and even boost the immune system. Unfiltered and unpasteurized honey too has antioxidant properties and can lessen allergic reactions. One caveat: a no no for kids younger than 1 year of age. The few Botulism spores that may be present do not cause us big people problems, but can for the rug rats.

l wash 2 bunches of parsley (even better if it has stems and roots) and put into a small Dutch oven; cover with one quart of wine and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Boil for about 10 minutes. To the happy inebriated parsley add to 1 cup raw honey. Stir and let sit overnight. Remove the parsley and bottle the tonic. Refrigerate. See, simple. Recipes vary. Some use the minimum in parsley sprigs, but I say go for the gusto; use a small forest. Others say add the honey after just 5 minutes of boiling and then boil the honey mixture another 5 minutes. If using valuable raw honey, why boil it? If that be the case, any cheap pasteurized honey would do. Thus, my honey is added after the parsley wine has cooled. The nectar of the gods can then spend the night, have a few drinks and discuss world issues with the parsley. Take one to three tablespoons each day.

Bottled Parsley Honey Wine

Hildegard wrote, spoke and practiced preventive medicine. Take it from Hildegard"Good nutrition and healthy life style will take you a long way. She lived 81 years. Michael DeBakey made it to 99 years.

Begin by looking into the Blue Zones Project now happening in Shawnee.