Thulami Mtembu has worked at Magwa tea farm for 33 years. For him it’s more than a job. “It’s the smell. Every day I come here I feel so refreshed,” he says. “I love the aroma of the tea bush. The conditions here make our tea special.”
The fragrant, lime-green bushes stretch away to the horizon at the biggest tea plantation in the southern hemisphere. It is a deceptively tranquil scene. Magwa has been racked by strikes, violence and financial strife that have brought production to a standstill and put its future in doubt.
The crisis encapsulates South Africa’s struggle to realise the potential of its wealth of natural resources. It is a story of low or unpaid wages, powerful unions, political inertia and allegations of financial mismanagement. It is a stark example of self-destruction.
The 1,800-hectare (4,450 acre) Magwa farm outside Lusikisiki in Eastern Cape province is blessed with an ideal climate and soil type for growing tea. At its peak five years ago it came close to profitability, producing 2.7m tonnes of tea in a season, sold in advance to countries including Britain, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The farm employed 1,200 permanent and 2,300 seasonal workers.
But when the market shrank and the tea price declined, the problems began.
For botanist Laura Shiels, herbs in the garden are not only a source of spice and flavor, but of healing.
Lemongrass adds zest to a soup but also helps relieve insomnia, while ginger is good for nausea. Chili peppers add spice but also stimulate circulation.
Basil can help relieve indigestion or nerves. Rosemary is said to enhance memory.
Shiels, a doctoral student in ethnobotany and former lecturer at the University of Hawaii, has been teaching workshops on how to grow and cultivate herbs for several years, with a focus on healing.
“Let food be your medicine,” says Shiels, who cultivates gardens everywhere she goes.
Many culinary herbs make aromatic compounds to protect themselves from being attacked by viruses and fungi, as well as to attract pollinators, she said. Those same compounds have antioxidant or antimicrobial properties.
So you can add flavor and health at the same time, she said, and address specific ailments with herbs.
Basil, for instance, popular in salads and the main ingredient for pesto, alleviates gas. Its leaves can be used for many dishes, while the flowers can be brewed into a tea, good for treating coughs.
Garlic is good for lowering blood pressure and relieving colds and flu.
By Robert Krughoff
Washington Consumers’ Checkbook
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Most of us don’t actually hug trees. But many of us love them, and for good reason. Trees provide shade that helps cool your home. They may flower in the spring and turn lovely colors in the fall. They lend privacy and add character and resale value to your property. They improve air quality.
But sometimes trees need work. The most common services are pruning, preventative spraying and fertilizing. In some cases, trees may need to be removed.
For that work, most homeowners will hire a professional. It is wise to do that carefully.