I’m sure I’m not the only one who has impulse purchased bunches of unknown dried flora at the pazar, purely because they delight my botanically-triggered visual senses. Here I attempt to guide you through some commonly found dried herbs at local Turkish markets & aktars (herbal stores), most commonly used to make caffeine-free, health-boosting teas.
Dağ Çayı (or ‘Yayla Çayı’) - Mountain Tea (or Highland Tea)
Dağ Çayı / Mountain Tea is a generic name given to a group of species of the Sideritis genus, more commonly known as ‘ironwort’. To make things even more confusing, some types of sideritis are also often locally classed as ‘Adaçayı’ (sage), but a quick sniff will confirm it has no sage relation. Some claim the name "sideritis" was given to herbs capable of healing wounds during battle in ancient times, others believe the name was inspired by the shape of the sepal (the lower petals which protect the flower head), which resemble spearheads. This floral herb is believed to be anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, as well as relieving coughs, cold symptoms and mild stomach complaints. Many types of sideritis also grow across Greece and the Balkans, with some species endemic to specific Greek islands. So far I’ve found 3 different kinds of sideritis sold locally around Fethiye, but online species identification is almost impossible (if you are reading and can assist me with identification, please do get in touch!).
More reading: https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/medicines/herbal/sideritis-herba
Civanperçemi - Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
A sweet plant of tightly clustered flowerheads and an amusing aray of common names, with soldier’s woundwort, bloodwort, devil’s nettle, old-man’s-pepper and stench grass being some of the more interesting. Believed to have blood-clotting properties, yarrow is thought to aid in regulating menstrual issues, help wound healing, and can relieve mild stomach issues.
A nice recipe for penne with yarrow can be found here: https://foragerchef.com/cooking-with-yarrow/
Papatya - Chamomile
Possibly the most recognised herbal tea worldwide, its name is synonymous with soothing and calming. Here, along the Mediterranean coast, you don’t need to go far to forage chamomile in the springtime. These dainty, daisy-looking flowers hold a mildly apple-like flavour, and a couple of flowerheads infused in hot water are believed to be the ideal aid to sweet slumber.
Adaçayı - Sage
At the first sign of a sore throat, a Turkish household will brew up some sage tea. In addition to relieving throat issues, sage is thought to reduce blood sugar, support brain health and even combat ageing. Belonging to the Salvia family, a genus of over 700 types of plant including mint, basil and oregano, this mountain dwelling herb has woody stems, greyish leaves and an aroma that packs a punch! Sage’s flavour may well be overpowering to some. Adding a squeeze of lemon and a drop of honey into sage tea can transform the flavour into something more palatable. Alternatively you can experiment with adding sage to your baking. A long-time favourite in our household is sourdough bread with sage and onion, the sage aroma is never overpowering. As a general rule, the crumbled leaves of one stalk per loaf is sufficient.
The Romans referred to sage as the "holy herb," and used it in religious rituals. If you wish to cleanse the air and reduce negative energy in your home, try bundling some sage into a smudge stick, igniting for a few seconds, then blowing out to release the air purifying smoke. Rosemary, lavender and eucalyptus can also be added to the mix. I’ll write more about this in the weeks to come.
If you’ve discovered any interesting herbs at the local markets, or have any creative tips for ways to use any of the plants mentioned above, please comment or message us…
Please note, all the potential health benefits noted in this article stem from beliefs rooted in traditional herbal medicine. Most have not been verified by modern scientific research. If you have any health ailments, do consider consulting an expert before introducing a herbal supplement to your diet.