All year round the island’s trees are heavy with fruit. Much of this falls to the ground to be feasted upon by insects, worms and birds. Our grandmothers would have scorned such waste and, gathering their baskets, would have collected all they could and found a way to make sure that nature’s bounty was put to good use.
The list of home remedies is endless, but for those on the island who are interested in improving health and home the natural way, let’s concentrate on what Mallorca provides in abundance.
According to Vicky Bennison in her delightful book “A Taste of the Place – Mallorca”, it was the Arabs who introduced the bitter orange to the island for medicinal and decorative purposes. “People chewed the rind to sweeten their breath, and bitter orange juice was even said to calm outbursts of bad temper.” One good reason to sip a Vodka and orange during lunch with the mother-in-law!
A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice a day has numerous health benefits. Apart from boosting your Vitamin C intake, it stimulates the flow of digestive juices, thereby improving digestion and increasing appetite and is therefore considered an excellent food for anorexics and infants experiencing slow growth.
When my favourite aged aunty comes to visit us the first thing she does is pick oranges from our trees. She eats one every morning. “Excellent for preventing constipation and water retention, my dear” and then lies out the peel to dry for use as kindling in our fireplace. The flammable oils contained in the skin give you a flame that lasts a lot longer than paper, and smell a lot nicer too. Lemon and lime peels work equally well.
Acne sufferers will benefit from orange peel too. Traditional remedies tell you to pound some of the peel with distilled water and rub onto the troubled areas.
Orange peel looks wonderfully decorative when candied in a simple sugar/water syrup. Use them in deserts or a surprise ingredient in salads.
Almonds, introduced to the island by the Phoenicians, have been highly desirable for cooking, lighting, medicine and for perfume since ancient times. Dried almond contains the highest amount of calcium among all fruit and vegetables and Edgar Cayce, the famous American psychic and holistic healer who died in 1945, is believed to have been a huge fan. In his readings, Cayce often recommended that almonds be included in the diet to improve the complexion, improve movement of food through the colon and prevent cancer.
One island resident, who glows with good health, said her mother was so convinced by their properties as a brain food that as a child she was made to eat six raw almonds with breakfast every day.
A traditional recipe from Swaziland, says that mint mixed with almond oil and rubbed on your temples brings relief from persistent headaches.
Almonds are useful for dry coughs. Seven kernels should be soaked in water overnight and the brown skin removed. They should then be ground well to form a fine paste. A quantity of twenty grams each of butter and sugar should then be added to the paste. This paste should be taken in the morning and evening.
Bright, juicy lemons, so abundant on the island, have a lot more uses that making a G&T taste good! All house-proud grandmothers would have known that lemon juice and salt is a simple but effective brass cleaner. Dip half a lemon into ordinary table salt and rub directly onto the area that needs cleaning. Wipe with a damp cloth, followed by a clean dry cloth to buff the shine up. A lemon, cut in half, also helped remove odours from their fridge or pantry. Our grandfathers, meanwhile, would have known that a paste made of cream of tartar and lemon juice could remove stains from stainless steel. An old fashioned remedy that can help pregnant women with heart burn is a glass of soda water with black pepper and lemon. Freshly squeezed lemon juice will cut the grease in your rinse water, add bounce to your hair, fade freckles and, used as an aromatherapy oil, will lift your mood.
Vicky Bennison suggests figs came to Mallorca with the Romans who exported the dried fruit back to Rome. She quotes the Roman writer Pliny who remarked “figs are restorative… the best food that can be eaten by those who are brought low by long sickness and are on the way to recovery.” They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.
Figs have also proved very precious for asthma sufferers. They provide comfort to the patient by draining off the phlegm. Three or four dry figs must be cleaned thoroughly with warm water and soaked during the night. And if they don’t succeed in making you asthma and wrinkle free, they will certainly keep you regular!