Angela had been coughing for some time and her health did not seem to improve, despite a visit to the doctor and consequent prescribed medication. As perky as she was and being on school holiday, she decided to go to the seaside in the South of Mauritius, hoping the sea winds would do her a world of good. On the way, she stopped in a little village in which she saw lemongrass on the roadside: this perennial plant, she thought, could certainly help her!
She knocked on the door of the veranda, which had lambrequins similar to the decorative elements on the roofs of old Creole houses. An elderly person came in from the backyard, and lighted Angela’s day up with a huge smile. Thus began a most interesting conversation with this Grandmother. I, she said, seldom consult a doctor. ‘I treat myself using plants found in Nature. It is such a pity that young people nowadays do not find the time or simply do not have it anymore to plant and take care of a small corner of land!’
‘I would recommend a nice cup of hot milk with fresh boiled turmeric to be taken in the evening, right before bed, for your cough. That will warm you from the inside out. Come, let me show you the plant. You are in luck to be able to see it bloom right now … Take a look at these shaded tones of jade green. Is that not a marvel? Another option would be to take Lemongrass with fresh ginger. I could also offer you some Betel leaf syrup that I have prepared myself. In Asia, they call it the Paan leaf.’
What a God-sent opportunity for this Grandmother who was happy to share further details. Peru Balsam also grew on her land; its leaf extracts offer relief for symptoms of the flu. ‘It is all about dosage and you have to know how to make it,’ she continued.
While walking in her little garden, the Grandmother carried on: ‘See, along the stone wall over here, we have the Catharanthus roseus or Madagascar Periwinkle. The leaves of the White Catharanthus roseus are used to reduce fever, colic and diarrhea.’ Intrigued, Angela wanted to learn more about these healing plants.
‘Have you heard of Ayapana? If you ever suffer from nausea, or epigastric pain, you could make an infusion of leaves that are rich in essential oils. There, look at this fresh mint! It easily spreads from the plant cuttings and likes water. But if you add too much, the plant fades and dies. I take great care of it because it goes well with a good coconut chutney. That scent is simply incredible. Every now and then, I take a nice infusion of fresh mint in the evening and it helps me to digest and sleep, as Vervain is quite rare in Mauritius’.
“Do you have some time to spare to share a cup of tea with me, my child?” The Grandmother asked Angela. How could she refuse this kind and friendly Mauritian whose traditional medicinal knowledge called out on her?
‘With great pleasure’. And that is how they settled under the spotless Creole porch to continue this exciting exchange.
The Grandmother then showed up carrying a beautiful porcelain teapot with highly sought-after motifs. It certainly dated back and she displayed matching cups on a hand-embroidered tablecloth she had herself sewn from a cotton fabric from a nearby factory. Why let anything go to waste when you can recycle? She then poured Cardamon tea! In Mauritius, we call it ‘Ēlaïti’. Angela was captivated, as to accompany this drink, she was also offered home-made Cinnamon-flavored biscuits.
How could she repay such a generous hostess? She actually asked in all honesty.
‘It is free of charge, my child! Do know how to make good use of what Nature and the Earth give you, and remember Grandmother’s home recipes that must be passed on from generation to generation.’ Angela had already forgotten about the seaside, but she would forever remember this unexpected encounter in the South. This is the Mauritian hospitality … One needs to experience it to understand it.