I was just heading back from my little herb walk from Falkensteiner Hotel and Spa Alpenresidenz Antholz across the dewy Alpine pastures to the aquamarine Antholzer Lake when, what with all the looking and discovering, I stumbled clumsily and fell, sprawling, to the damp forest floor. I nearly toppled into the still quite chilly mountain lake, which however, I was thankfully spared. Instead, minor scrapes now graced both of my palms - oh dear! But what definitely took the worst beating was my knee. After briefly, but severely scolding myself, I remembered my gran: "Tamara, go put some arnica on it".
On a First-Name Basis with Nature
Oh, the trusty mountain arnica. My clever gran - she had always been aware of this yellow plant's outstanding effect, which is why she always kept some home-made arnica oil close at hand. In our area, it really has a place in every home and is the first cure to be fetched from the cabinet in the event of injuries. And lo and behold, it helps!
Here in Antholzertal Valley, and everywhere else in South Tyrol as well, many things are still home-made, such as elderflower syrup for the refreshing summer beverage called Hugo to Stinging Nettle Gnocchi (according to gran's recipe of course) and Cowslip Tea for that troublesome cough. Home-made Zirmschnaps (stone pine schnapps) - and rightly so, by the way - is also a permanent fixture in many a house bar.
In the Gardens of South Tyrol
Nature gives us so many gifts. Not only up here, on the Alpine meadows of Antholzer Mountain, at an altitude of 1,600 m, does the best of the plant world grow, but many a South Tyrolean home garden also has glorious bounty to share. Everything can be put to use. And with that, I mean literally everything. Yes, even the "weeds".
How was it that the Swiss herbalist pastor, Johann Künzle, put it?
"If people didn't just pull 'weeds', but ate them instead, we would not only be rid of them, we would be healthy as well."
Falkensteiner Witch's Kitchen
In accordance with the motto "On a First-Name Basis with Nature", we came up with the idea of creating our little Falkensteiner Witch's Kitchen. We want to revive this valuable knowledge of Antholzer Alpine herbs, gran's recipes and medicinal plants in general, and taking a modern approach, share it with our guests.
Here we find out together whether it is true that the facial toner used by the Queen of Hungary contained rosemary and whether it is correct that the Antholzer housewives with the worst tempers always have the most glorious, beautiful and longest chives around. And particularly: we find out what a pinch of Good King Henry herb would be doing in my omelette.
Depending on what our own herb garden has to offer, we prepare an exquisite liqueur, make Zuggerlen (sweets) for the sweet-toothed and also a few balms for home use. In this way, any of our guests can become a little "herb witch" in no time.
So. Now that I have treated my knee with arnica, I better go and have a look whether my fresh garden chives haven't grown all too big in the meantime. Not that anyone would suspect that I have the worst temper of all ...