I love all herbs. In my mind’s garden, I picture them in little compartments, just like in a real herb patch.
While teaching English in Poland in 1990 and again in 1992, my husband and I learned about lots of interesting “Polish” herbs. For example, many people there grow myrtle in pots on window sills. And although this ‘Venus’ herb originates from the Mediterranean region, they consider it to be the “Polish wedding herb.”
Another Polish herb we learned about is sweet vernalgrass (Hierochloe odorata or Anthoxanthum nitens) also known as vanilla grass or buffalo grass, which the Poles add to vodka. They call the plant trawa Zubrowka.
To prepare your own Zubrowka vodka, insert one or two blades of grass and a tablespoon of white sugar into a bottle of vodka. Shake the bottle, and then store it in a warm place for three to six weeks. The vodka is ready when it turns a soft yellow/green color.
On both of our trips to Poland, we spent some time in the beautiful primeval forest of Bialowieza in Eastern Poland where Zubrowka grass grows. Bialowieza is famous for the 300 rare European bison that roam the forest. The bison love to eat the grass!
Ted and I took a memorable tour of the forest in a horse-drawn wagon and also enjoyed several wonderful walks on our own. One afternoon, we rented bikes and rode through the little town of mostly wooden homes. Every home had a lovely garden in place of the customary lawn. It was hard to decide what to photograph! We pondered what causes such a beautiful tradition to develop.
We cannot imagine returning to Poland without another visit to this wonderful spot.
submitted by Lorraine Kiefer, South Jersey Unit
- If you are in the Mid-Atlantic area, please join Lorraine Kiefer and other HSA members at their annual Herb Weekend, May 25 and 26, at Triple Oaks Nursery & Herb Garden, Franklinville, N.J. Visit the website to sign up for Lorraine’s e-mail newsletter and to receive a schedule of this herbal event.
- Most years Triple Oaks Nursery and Herb Garden carries sweet vernalgrass in their New Jersey garden center. You also can find sources for it online.
- To learn more about the bison of the Bialowieza Forest, watch this CNN video “Eye on Poland” on YouTube.