What Do Cherry Blossoms Do?
Recently, on a Saturday morning, as I was finishing setting up the stand at the Berkeley Farmers Market, a customer asked me an extremely complex question. The early shoppers tend to be our most regular ones—eager to get first pick at whatever new concoction we might have—and indeed this shopper is what I would consider a great customer. I see her most every week and she purchases an average of 3-4 items: almost always a Nutra Kraut (our super blue-green algae kraut), a seasonal kimchi for her partner (she doesn’t do spicy), and usually a Kombucha, most often something with ginger or turmeric. She returns her bottles—although definitely not cleaned—and is generally pleasant.
So, as she’s perusing her options on the Kombucha stand (generally first thing in the morning I have about 10 options) she asks in the same tone as she might inquire what time it is, “What do cherry blossoms do?” Cherry Blossom Kombucha was an option that morning. It had never been an option previously and wouldn’t again for quite some time. And even then, chances are it wouldn’t be as perfect as those two dozen bottle I had with me that morning.
I am presented with an interesting challenge when someone asks a question that I process as ludicrous. Yes, I knew she wanted a direct response as to the precise positive action cherry blossoms would perform within her body: some particular nutrient or enzyme they were particularly well endowed with, some reason why this $6 investment would be sensible. But damn, I was so unable to answer. If I could provide the answer she was searching for, even speak in the same language for a few moments, I could be released from the awkward exchange sooner. But I can’t do it; it is the wrong question. Not only does it not make sense, I think the sentiment behind it is flawed. “What do they do?” I responded right back at her, “They’re cherry blossoms.”
“No, you know, like what are they good for?” she clarified, slightly annoyed that we seemed not to be communicating. “You know…like turmeric is good for inflammation….”
Yes, I am a true believer in the food-as-medicine lifestyle. Yes, particular foods are particularly healing for specific conditions. I have dedicated my entire adult life to the study of nourishment. But I believe the inability to view the whole as more than the sum of its parts has become a pathological condition for many in this community, and it is not making anyone healthier.
One weekend this May, we were fortunate enough to receive an outrageous amount of luscious, pink, fragrant cherry blossoms. The next morning we made a concentrated infusion, and introduced—quite possibly the first date for them—a Kombucha SCOBY. Over the next couple weeks, the petals intertwined themselves within that zoogleal mat, gurgling happily, creating in their union what I would describe as the most perfect of fairy garments. At bottling, this brew was mixed with some raw local honey and the bottles, each one with cherry petals chopsticked in, sat in our cave over two more weeks.
You really never know until you open the bottle. You could have done everything to this point “right” and still it could really suck. But from the smell you know. And the smell of the cherry blossom kombucha, bubbles dancing under the nose, encouraged some pretty large smiles. Indeed, sometimes the smell can hold such subtle beauty that you feel like you are being let in on the most fantastic of secrets. The delicate dance of the blossoms as they floated to the surface after the top was released was pure joy and delight to behold. The fairytale dress SCOBY had produced a fairytale flower champagne.
What do cherry blossoms do? I’ve thought about that question a lot over the last couple of months. Nothing and everything. I believe that resonance holds more power than any specific index of values ever will. Story and alchemy surround you. Pay deep attention to your food and it will feed you deeply.