2016 Herb Farm in Chicago — Part 3

First, permit me to introduce our diligent Japanese farmers from 2016, the Miyazaki twins — Kouta and Keita.


They deserve most of the credit for all of the hard work evident in the photos to follow.twins-1

Next, the continuation of the 2016 herb growing season narrative…

Being a cold hardy flowering plant, 275 calendula seedlings (Calendula officinalis) could be safely planted at the same time that the Krishna Tulasi seedlings were getting started in the greenhouse. The photos below were taken on the same day as those posted yesterday.

We grew calendula for its bright orange flowers, intending to use them both in our herbal soaps as well as for their medicinal properties. The oil of calendula flowers is used by herbalists as an anti-inflammatory and a remedy for healing wounds. Calendula is also used topically as an antiseptic and for treating acne, controlling bleeding, and soothing irritated tissue.

The plants quickly took to the rich Midwestern soil and developed a bright green color.

After sprouting 700 ashwagandha plants (Withania somnifera) in the greenhouse, the Japanese farmers began planting them in the field in late May. This herb is a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine, which primarily uses the root, but also the berries and leaves for topical treatment of tumors, tubercular glands, carbuncles, and ulcers. It is also used in Yemen, where the roots are used in the treatment of burns and wounds. A lot of research has been performed on this plant to confirm its active chemical constituents, some of which are found exclusively in the ashwagandha plant itself.

Here is a young ashwagandha plant in our field.

One well known Western herb is Sage (Salvia officinalis), which has been used in the Western world since antiquity. The Greeks were aware of its medicinal properties at least as early as the 4th century BCE, and Pliny of the 1st AD century refers to its use in the Roman empire. In modern herbalism, some refer to studies that have demonstrated that sage extracts can facilitate improved memory and alertness, as well as improved cognitive and behavioral function in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Below is pictured a young Sage plant, shadowed by a thistle plant…

Another traditional Chinese medicinal plant recommended to us was Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula). As with many of the other herbs, it is the roots that are used as medicine, and are said to build chi and tonify the blood. (Dang Shen seedling below)

More to come…

2016 Farm in Chicago — Part 2

Last year, I was able to take photos and videos of the herb farm at different times, which by Divine Grace ended up being the key stages, resulting in a kind of visual documentation of the process. Thus, I will be sharing those images across a number of posts, to give others a sense of participation in the joy and wonder of nature’s bounty.

First of all, some of you may already know that for decades Amma has been praising the medicinal benefits of tulasi, or holy basil . Of the several varieties available, she has repeatedly emphasized that Krishna Tulasi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) has the most powerful medicinal properties. This is the type of tulasi that has deep purple stems and leaves that turn a similar deep purple when exposed to powerful sunlight.

I remember many years ago when the wife of a particular country’s head of state came to see Amma, mentioning that she had breast cancer, Amma immediately instructed her to eat fresh tulasi leaves every day. She told me to bring a tulasi plant for the First Lady, somehow intuiting that I had one in my room, I suppose! When I brought the plant, however, Amma said “Not this type, you should give her Krishna Tulasi, as it is more powerful.” Sadly, I did not have Krishna Tulasi with me at the time, but later we were able to deliver one to the First Lady, much to her joy.

After experiences like this, I knew we needed to make Krishna Tulasi the cornerstone of our herb farm. With the help of two very dedicated Japanese farmers, we were able to sprout 2700 Krishna Tulasi seedlings in our greenhouse last year.

The photos below were taken on May 27, 2016.

Thousands of tulasi seedlings…

Richo Cech, a well respected American herbalist, calls this variety “Amrita Tulasi”. He says it “has a wonderful aroma and tests very high for rosmarinic acid…. We tested this cultivar and confirmed the eugenol marker.  This is the holy basil my wife and I grow for ourselves to make into tea.  We find it very satisfying, with aroma most appealing. Traditional usage (Ayurveda): stress, anxiety, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and dementia.”

As the seedlings mature, the leaves begin to take on a wine-colored hue…

St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is another favorite of herbalists worldwide, due to the medicinal effect of extracts and teas made from its bright yellow flowers. Mentioned in the 4th century European herbal text “Herbarium of Apuleius,” it is traditionally used as an antidepressant and to restore damaged nerve tissue and strengthen the urinary organs. We were blessed with very good germination rates, ending up with over 700 plants.

Another very successful herb was thyme (Thymus vulgaris), of which we were able to produce 1100 some odd plants. Everyone knows about the culinary application of this herb, but people are often surprised to hear that it has medicinal properties, as well. The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have been used to treat bed-wetting, diarrhea, stomach ache, arthritis, sore throat, cough, bronchitis, and as a diuretic.

Another medicinal plant that may come as a surprise to some is marshmallow (Althaea officinalis). Originally, the root of this plant was an ingredient of the candy that still bears its name, though no longer contains the herb. The same 4th century Herbarium of Apuleius recommends the root of the plant for sores, body stiffness, and  foot diseases, like gout. In traditional herbal medicine, the leaves, flowers and roots are used variously as an immune stimulant, for irritation of mucous membranes, and as a gargle for sore throat, as well as for ulcers of the mouth, throat and gastric system.

In a similar vein, we also have licorice! The root of the cold hardy Chinese variation (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) we are growing has been used since ancient times as a traditional Chinese medicine, throughout Asia and as far as the Middle East. Licorice is valued by herbalists around the world for the wide variety of health benefits attributed to it, such as healing digestive illnesses, boosting the immune system, pain relief, easing respiratory congestion and sore throat, reduction of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms, and prevention of heart disease.

Hyssop was considered by the ancient Celts to be the most purifying of all herbs, and was also used for religious purification in ancient Egypt. Today, many herbalists use its dark blue, fragrant flowers for their traditional application in treating the common cold. The essential oil includes the chemicals thujone and phenol, which are said to give it antiseptic properties.

Last year we tried growing this herb as an experiment, which went very well. This year we plan to expand the area to about 150 plants.

Last year, our Japanese farmers successfully sprouted over 400 astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) plants, as well. This variety has a history of use as an herbal medicine in both traditional Chinese and Persian medicine. In Chinese medicine it has been used to reinforce vital energy (qi) and protect against illness. Its extracts are often marketed for their life-prolonging effects. 

Along with licorice, one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine is an herb known as “baical skullcap” (Scutellaria baicalensis, Huang qin)  which was recommended to us by Richo Cech. The seed sprouting efforts resulted in about 150 seedlings of this precious plant.

In Chinese medicine, baical skullcap has a broad range of applications: antiallergic, diuretic, hypotensive, antibacterial, antiviral, tranquilizing and fever-reducing, commonly used for treatment of dysentery, hepatitis, staph. It appears to be a good source for flavonoid compounds, and several chemical compounds have been isolated from the root, the major ones being baicalein, baicalin, wogonin, norwogonin, oroxylin A[3] and β-sitosterol are the major ones.

Last but not least, we also had great success with an old herbal favorite, chamomile…

Chamomile tea is one of the most famous varieties, traditionally used for a sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, and as a gentle sleep aid. The 700 chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla aka Matricaria recutita) seedlings that sprouted grew vigorously in the greenhouse and were soon ready for planting…

In the next post, we will see how the seedlings looked after being planted in the field…

2016 Herb Farm in Chicago — Part 1

Another project that has been keeping me very busy over the past year has been the new medicinal herb farm in Chicago.

After months of planning that began in December 2015, the 2016 growing season in Chicago began on March 27, with a seed starting bonanza in the GreenWorks building. The task ahead was quite a daunting one — creating a 2-acre medicinal herb farm with 35 different varieties of plants. As nearly 10,000 medicinal herb seedlings needed to be sprouted and planted in the field within 2 months, there was no time to waste.

With the urgency of purpose and high stakes, I knew we needed some heavy firepower, so I called in for reinforcements… AYUDH! 🙂

After watching a short instructional video on seed starting, prepared by dedicated Japanese devotees, I became the de facto subject matter expert (?!), showing everyone what to do. This day was for sowing the seeds of the less cold-hardy plants that would need more time to mature before being transplanted in the field.

The youth quickly took over and immersed themselves in the process.

Each one of the dozens of 72 cell-trays prepared was labeled with the name of the plant and the date the seeds had been sown.

In a short time, we had finished enough trays for almost 1400 plants. Not bad for a group of beginners…

In the days to follow, many more such trays were prepared, until we had all of the herbs below ready to sprout.

1 Alkanet Alkanna orientalis
2 Ashwagandha Withania somnifera
3 Astragalus Astragalus membranaceus
4 Baical Skullcap Scutellaria baicalensis
5 Calendula Calendula officinalis
6 Catnip Nepeta cataria
7 Chamomile, German Matricaria recutita
8 Chinese red sage (Dan Shen) Salvia miltiorrhiza
9 Comfrey, true Symphytum officinale var patens
10 Coriander Coriandrum sativum
11 Cornflower (Batchelor’s Buttons) Centaurea cyanus
12 Dang Shen Codonopsis pilosula
13 Echinacea Echinacea purpurea
14 Ginger Zingiber offcinale
15 Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
16 Lavender, English Lavandula angustifolia vera
17 Lemon balm Melissa offcinalis
18 Lemon grass Cymbopogon citratus
19 Licorice, chinese Glycyrrhiza uralensis
20 Madder Root Rubia tinctorum
21 Marigold, French tagetes patula
22 Marshmallow Althea officinalis
23 Nettles Urtica dioica
24 Peppermint Mentha piperita
25 Red Clover Trifolium pratense
26 Rhubarb, Victoria Rheum rhabarbarum
27 Rose, Damask Rosa damascena
28 Rose, Rugosa Rosa rugosa
29 Sage Salvia officinalis
30 Spearmint Mentha Spicata
31 St.John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum
32 Stevia Stevia rebaudiana
33 Thyme Thymus vulgaris
34 Tulasi, Holy Basil Ocimum tenuiflorum
35 Wood Betony Stachis Officianalis

Mother Nature’s Medicinal Magic — Plant Medicine Workshop 母なる自然の不思議な薬効 ―植物薬ワークショップ

Many of you may already know that in the Spring of 2014 we began growing the medicinal herb echinacea  here in MA Center Chicago. In previous posts, I mentioned how we prepared to seed rougly 1.5 acres of echinacea purpurea, then actually planted it, how it looked after 4 months, how it progressed this spring and early summer, and a post this summer showing how the field went from this…


 to this…これに・・・

… in just 6 weeks! ・・・たった6週間の間に!

Here’s an aerial video of the field at it’s peak this summer, just 15 months after it was planted from seed.


While the plant is indeed beautiful when it explodes into countless bright pink flowers, the medicinal properties are at their highest levels later in the fall. So, we decided to conduct a workshop in early October, called “Mother Nature’s Medicinal Magic — Making Plant Medicine”.

沢山の鮮やかなピンクの花々が一斉に咲きほこる光景はとても美しいのですが、この花が持つ薬効特性が最高値に達するのは秋中旬頃です。私たちは、早速10月の初めに “母なる自然の不思議な薬効―植物薬作り” のワークショップを開催しました。

We were fortunate to have Richo and Jebran Cech from Horizon Herbs in Oregon come out to conduct the workshop. Both of them love Amma deeply and are strong supporters of all the humanitarian activities she has inpsired. Here is Richo in our greenhouse with some local devotees.



The program hall was set up nicely, with the various equipment newly procured for our nascent tincturing endeavor.



Photos from the actual workshop follow, starting with Richo inaugurating the event.




Later, Jebran took a group outside to show them how to dig up echinacea plants for tincture.



Soon, everyone started hands-on learning of the process …



Everyone appreciated how generous and patient Richo and Jebran were in answering their questions.



In the course of the workshop, a few gallons of echinacea and tulasi (holy basil) tincture were prepared, but only the first step. Weeks later, we had to press, filter, bottle, label and seal the tincture, in order to make it available for Amma’s visit in November.


Stay tuned for more posts on this subject…


Nature’s bounty crafted into tasty delights / 自然の恵みが美味なる絶品になりました

As I mentioned in my last post, some of the produce harvested here in MA Center Chicago was transported far away to help people in need. Throughout the growing season, we also regularly provided fresh, organically grown vegetables to the local food bank. And, I must confess… we did eat a lot of them ourselves, too.前回の投稿では、MAセンターシカゴで収穫された農作物が、助けが必要な人々のために遠い地まで運ばれたことをご紹介しました。野菜の生育期間中は、地元の食糧銀行にも定期的に新鮮な無農薬野菜を届けてきました。そして正直に告白しますと・・・私たち自身もここで採れた沢山の農作物をいただきました。

Here are some other ways in which the local devotees utilized the bountiful harvest, in mid-September.そのほかにも、地元のボランティアたちが9月半ばにまた違った形で豊作の収穫野菜を活用しましたので、それをここでご紹介します。

Before the growing season began, one devotee had the inspiration to start a “salsa garden”, with the intention of growing all the veggies needed to make our own salsa. At the end of the season, the produce from the garden was harvested, and any shortfall was supplemented with produce from another organic farm nearby.野菜の栽培期間が始まる前に、ひとりのボランティアが〝サルサ ガーデン″を始めることを思いつきました。自分たちの手作りサルサを作るのに必要な野菜全種類を育てようというわけです。夏が終わるころに畑から野菜を収穫し、足りない分は地元の無農薬菜園で買い足しました。

Then, they set about chopping everything…それから、全材料を並べて野菜切りに入ります・・・


After cooking the ingredients for some time, they canned them nicely in mason jars…しばらく材料を煮込んだあとに、ガラス瓶に丁寧に入れていきます・・・


Soon, we had our first batch of salsa — both mild and hot varieties.そして、初めての手作りサルサができました-辛味と甘味の2種類です。


I received a jar of each and I can confirm that they were both quite delicious. Though a decent amount was made, every last jar quickly disappeared. :-)私もこの2種類のサルサをいただきました。どちらの味もたしかにとても美味しくできていました。一応それなりに十分な数を作ったのですが、最後のひと瓶まであっという間に残らずなくなってしまいました。

Next year, if we get more help with the gardening, we can certainly make lots more.来年は畑仕事を手伝ってくれる人が増えれば、もっと沢山作ることができるでしょう。


The same cooking crew made a large number of apple pies, utilizing just a fraction of the apples harvested from the trees here.同じく調理メンバーが、敷地内で収穫したリンゴのうちのごく少量を使って、沢山のアップルパイを焼きました。


These were also extremely popular, and needless to say, very tasty…こちらもとても大人気で、言うまでもなく、とても美味でした・・・


Next spring, we plan to revive the roadside farm stand that used to be very popular a few years before we acquired this property. There, we hope to make fresh vegetables and other items like these available to the general public.来春の計画は、道端の野菜直売所を復活させることです。ここにMAセンターを構える数年前にとても評判が良かった直売所です。新鮮な野菜や、ここにご紹介したような手作り食品を一般にも提供したいと願っています。

Stay tuned for more developments and ideas on the roadside farm stand plan…道端の野菜直売所がどのように発展し、どのようなアイデアが展開されていくのか、楽しみにしていてくださいね。

Sharing nature’s bounty / 自然の恵みを分かち合う

With the rich soil in our center and the plentiful rainfall, our gardens grew very nicely again this year. Toward the end of the summer season, residents of the Chicago ashram felt to share nature’s bounty with our brothers and sisters in another part of the midwest. We decided to partner with another non-profit, Lakota Circle, to provide organically grown vegetables to the people of Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.センターで育てている私たちの野菜畑は、肥沃な土と十分な雨のおかげで、今年も多いに豊作でした。夏が終わる頃、シカゴアシュラムの住人たちは、この自然の恵みを中西部の別の地域に住む私たちの兄弟姉妹と分かち合いたいと思いました。私たちは、ラコタ・サークルという非営利団体と協力して、サウスダコタ州にあるパイン・リッジ・レザベーションというアメリカ先住民居留地に住む人々に有機栽培の野菜を提供することにしました。

Many of you may already be aware of the health and nutritional challenges experienced on Native American reservations today. In reference to Pine Ridge reservation, ABC News said a few years ago: “An area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, the reservation is considered a “food desert,” defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a low-income community without ready access to healthy and affordable food. Ecoffey, who is also the Bureau of Indian Affairs superintendent for the Pine Ridge Agency, tells ABC News that healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable because of what he says are limited resources.”もうすでにご存じの方も沢山いると思いますが、各地の居留地で多くのアメリカ先住民たちが健康面、そして栄養面での問題を抱えています。パイン・リッジ・レザベーションについては、数年前にABCニュースでこのように紹介されていました。「デラウェア州とロードアイランド州両方を合わせたほどの面積からなるこの居留地は、低所得層が健康的な食材を無理なく買うことが困難になっていることから、米国農務省が定義する『フードデザート(食の砂漠)』の状態にあるとみなされています。アメリカ先住民委員会パイン・リッジ局の責任者であるエコフィー氏がABCニュースに伝えたところによると、供給先が限られているために新鮮な果物や野菜の入手が困難になっているとのことです。」

So, residents set to work harvesting from their gardens.というわけで、アシュラム住人が野菜畑での収穫に取りかかりました。


Mother Nature was very generous in providing vegetables like string beans…サヤインゲンなどの野菜—母なる大地が惜しみなく与えてくれたものです


Purple beans and sunflower seeds… 紫インゲンとヒマワリの種…


carrots galore and many more… 沢山のニンジン、まだもっと沢山…


Everything was packed in boxes and kept overnight in a walk-in refrigerator箱に詰められた野菜たちは、巨大な冷蔵室で一晩過ごしました。


The following morning, the veggies were handed over to Dan, who happily packed them in his car,翌朝、野菜たちはダンに手渡され、ダンはそれを嬉しそうに車に積み込み、


…then set off on the 850 mile, 12+ hour journey to Kyle, South Dakota.約850マイル(約1360キロメートル)12時間強の運転、サウスダコタ州 カイルへと旅立ちました。


Here is a picture of the letter enclosed with the vegetables…これは野菜と一緒に同封した手紙です…


Kids’ Trash Cleanup Day / 子どもたちのゴミ拾いデー

These photos are so overdue, I am almost too embarrassed to share them, but they present a nice story of the children involved in our center.こちらの写真はもうすでにかなり前のものになってしまいました。なので、今頃に皆さんにお見せするのがとても恥ずかしいのですが、当センターに関わる子どもたちについてのよいお話です。

Most of the year, the children living in or attending MA Center Chicago gather on Saturdays to attend Amrita Bala Kendra (ABK), where they learn values and Amma’s spiritual teachings. Given the natural setting here, many of the activities involve nature themes, helping the children develop a deep bond with Mother Nature, and learning how to respect Her in the way Amma does.MAセンターシカゴに在住または、近隣から通っている子どもたちは、年中ほとんど毎土曜日にアムリタ・バラ・ケンドラ(通称ABK:4-12歳までの為のクラス)に参加するために集まっています。子どもたちはここで、価値観やアンマのスピリチュアルな教えを学びます。自然に恵まれた環境の中で、自然をテーマにした多くの活動を通して、子供たちは母なる自然との深い繋がりを育んできました。そして、アンマが自然を敬っているように、子どもたちもまた母なる自然を敬うことを学んでいます。

Some of their past activities have already been mentioned here:すでにこのブログで、過去の活動をいくつかご紹介しています。例えば、 learning how to track animals in the snow雪の中で動物の跡を追う方法; organic gardening, seed starting and prairie exploration子どもたちの有機栽培、種まきと草原の冒険; and interacting with farm animals.MAセンターシカゴに農場の動物が来てくれました など。

Last spring, the children decided to spend one of their Saturday sessions picking up trash around the ashram.今年の春、子どもたちはある土曜日、アシュラム周辺のゴミ拾いをすることに決めました。

They worked as a team…彼らはチームを組んで作業しました・・・

And even the littlest member of ABK participated!ABKの一番小さなメンバーも参加しました!


The kids, themselves, seemed to taste the satisfaction of giving back to Mother Nature, whom we depend on for everything in life.私たちは人生のすべてを母なる自然の恩寵に頼って生きています。子どもたち自身が、その母なる自然への恩返しをすることにとても満足しているように見えました。

Let us all learn this spirit from the children…私たちも、このような精神を子どもたちから学びましょう・・・