Since early days of Christianity and particularly during the Middle Ages, plants and flowers have been named and dedicated to Our Lady. As a way to honor Mary, people saw reminders of Mary in their daily lives and found special significance and symbolism in various flowers and herbs they associated with her. In addition to the numerous flowers, there are many herbs connected to Mary. Some have lovely legends associated with them – some just the name given for an attribute or characteristic of the plant that was associated with Mary. Other plants were dedicated to Mary because they may have been connected to some event in her life or flowered around the time of one of her feast days. Herbs are traditionally blessed on one of Mary's feast days - the Assumption.
Vincenzina Krymow, in the book, Mary's Flowers states, "Early Christians believed that fragrant herbs and flowers reflected May's spiritual sweetness, soothing and healing herbs reflected her heavenly mercy, while bitter and sour herbs mirrored her bitter sorrows. "
Those herbs whether sweet, savory, bitter, or healing - with their unique flavors and aromas - can add a spiritual dimension to our Catholic kitchens. Cooking with the herbs associated with Our Lady provides an opportunity to reflect on her nature and experiences. One idea is to bring Our Blessed Mother into the kitchen with a mini Mary garden - small potted herbs with a Marian statue. Fresh herbs that honor her will always be available to you for cooking.
In the month dedicated to Our Lady we are going to take a look at some of the culinary herbs associated with her, sharing recipes that use those herbs. Watch for those each week as Catholic Cuisine flavors the month of May with herbs for Our Lady.