Columns Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

Maggie’s Pantry

By Maggie Conklin
Beebalm
I kept driving by a field of spotted beebalm, aka horsemint, bergamot or the Latin binomial name Monarda punctata, and telling myself I’d go harvest it tomorrow.
This had gone on for a couple weeks, OK, more than a month till I finally parked my Mini and picked an armful in five minutes. Why did I procrastinate?
If you link bergamot with Earl Grey Tea, you may know it gets its specific citrusy flavor from the fruits’ dried rinds. Some makers add the plants’ leaves.
There are a bunch (pun intended) of family variants, but beebalm is one of my favorites. It is high in thymol, as is the herb thyme, a strong anti-bacterial and -fungal first used as active ingredient in yellow Listerine.
A published clinical trial from 2014 showed beebalm’s essential oil effective eliminating Streptococcus pyogenes in pneumonia, Escherica coli (E. coli), plus mildly effective on MRSA (staph) bacteria grown resistant to prevailing nostrums.
There are plenty of ways you can use bergamot at home; make a tea and drink it, simmer two handfuls in a pot and soak your feet in it to attack any foot or toenail fungus, put a couple whole plants and Epsom salts into a hot bathtub and soak your entire body …
Its pollen attracts bees, butterflies and Georgia Native Plant Society 2023 Plant of the Year honors.
If you want to follow me around and learn firsthand about beebalm and a couple dozen other wild plants, I will lead a foraging walk at the Outdoor Discovery Center, 4215 56th St., northeast of Saugatuck Township, west of Fillmore, Thursday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is being held by Fredrik Meijer Gardens and you can get tickets through meijergardens.org.
Enjoy!

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