Herbs & Memories by Naomi RaynerNaomi
If you want to get an idea of TastEd, one of the simplest ways is to take a fresh mint leaf, smell it and try to say what it reminds you of. We do this as an ice breaker in our teacher training sessions and we also do it in many of our TastEd lessons (which are sadly on hold for now because of the pandemic). What we find is that everyone has a different mint memory. To some the scent of mint is associated with chewing gum. To others it is a pot of mint tea served by a grandparent in Morocco. Some have memories of mint choc chip ice cream in the summer and others remember picking mint for mint sauce to go with the Sunday roast. This one herb summons up so many different memories.
Smell and memory are strongly connected in the human brain. Different food smells have an amazing ability to conjure different emotions. This is one of the reasons why smell loss or anosmia can be such a traumatic experience. Sufferers find themselves unable to access the smells of their own childhood. To read more about this and to find out the role that temporary anosmia may play as a symptom of coronavirus, see https://www.fifthsense.org.uk/ – this is an excellent charity founded by TastEd advisor Duncan Boak.
Exploring our sense of smell is one of the key TastEd lessons in every school year group. Teachers who have done these lessons – such as Emma Keyworth at Washingborough Academy – report how wonderful their classroom smells after one of these sessions involving herbs.
Now that the garden centres are open and restrictions are easing up a little, little pots of home grown herbs are readily obtainable and provide a great base for easy sensory food education at home. Mint, sage, parsley, basil, oregano, coriander, rosemary…even one or two pots can stimulate a short game or a conversation. Here are a few simple ideas you could try at home with children – or friends and family -to get started.
Can you tell different herbs apart with your eyes shut?
Which ones reward you with a stronger smell when you water them?
Does the smell of the herb change if you infuse it with boiling water to make a herb tea?
Can you eat the stalk bits?
How do the leaves feel?
Have you got any dried versions in a cupboard to compare? (Fresh and dried mint are hugely different; or fresh and dried bay leaves).
Can you find out which world cuisines use each of the herbs?
Could you put it in a drink?
What other fruits and vegetables would it taste good with? What would it be horrible with?