Acclaimed nutritionist Kirsten Hartvig says berries and spices have the power to heal and improve our wellbeing
You are what you eat is a saying that has been with us for centuries, and so it makes absolute sense that eating naturally and seeking goodness from simple, unprocessed foodstuffs is the right way to ensure our bodies get the best benefit.
Nutritionist, naturopath and author Kirsten Hartvig speaks to the merits of berries and spices as a source of healing and health in her new books, Healing Berries and Healing Spices.
With practices in East Sussex and Denmark – where she is a government adviser on natural health – she also runs regular retreats in the French Pyrenees.
“I lived in the mountains for ten years,” says Hartvig, “and during that time I used very little conventional medicine. By connecting with the natural environment and getting to know the plants intimately, I found the most effective treatments to be all around me.
I studied naturopathy and herbalism and for 25 years I have combined these to create an holistic approach to health.”
In the new books, Hartvig examines the historical use and healing properties of 100 berries and spices to demonstrate how these simple ingredients can be used to boost nutrition and health.
With recipes alongside, this knowledge can easily be incorporated into tasty and delicious recipes which are easy to recreate at home. In Healing Berries, Hartvig shares a host of ways to use the fruits in cooking, from fresh, frozen, dried and preserved.
“Most of us rely on supermarkets if we live in an urban environment and berries are perfectly accessible, but it’s worth looking further for some real gems.
“Aronia berries and barberries are common in hedgerows. Aronia is also available from healthfood shops as a juice, full of antioxidants and minerals. Barberries are used in Arabian cooking and you can buy them in Asian stores. I love to add a handful to a casserole, sprinkle them on a salad or enjoy them in a smoothie.
When wildcrafting berries, it’s important not to eat what you’re not 100 per cent sure about identifying. Mind you, the same could be said when you look at a packet in a supermarket that’s full of additives!”
Hartvig also organises herb walks to educate people on nature’s bounty and to help them reconnect with their local environment as they discover free foods on their doorstep. In Healing Spices, she examines the powerful health-protecting and immune-stimulating properties of ingredients which have been used throughout history as natural medicines.
“I’ve always loved using spices,” she says. “I’ve been vegan for 30 years so I have explored many different plant-based foodstyles that have well-established spice traditions, and they are wonderful to use both to enhance the food we eat and as remedies for common ailments.
“Cardamom, for example, is a traditional cure for reflux and it is possible to avoid over-the-counter medicines by chewing it whole as an alternative. Cloves contain eugenol and are a natural local anesthetic. You can understand why they were a popular remedy for toothache. In fact, modern dentistry still uses eugenol. Star anise is a wonderful anti-viral flu medicine and appears as an ingredient in today’s Tamiflu. It has a lovely sweet licorice taste, try it in an infusion as a herbal tea and give it to children to combat sniffles. I’d always wondered why people fought wars over spices, but when you see how powerful they are, you can understand it.”
Intended as seasonal references, Healing Berries and Healing Spices are valuable additions to any bookshelf for those looking for a natural approach to health.
Healing Berries and Healing Spices by Kirsten Hartvig are published by Watkins Publishing