As my husband Dan and I walk through a thriving garden with exotic herbs including tulsi, mamaki and ashwagandha, The gardener pours Tropical Hibiscus tea from an insulated teapot into metal mugs. Stevia makes the tea sweet, and roselle, guava leaf, star fruit leaf, lemon-grass and tulsi lend a bright, tangy taste. We are at Kauai Farmacy, an herb farm in Kilauea that grows, cures, presses and blends medicinal teas. After two years of research and development, Doug Wolkon, his wife Genna are rolling out fresh tea with maximum medicinal value.
Doug Wolkon in front of the solar-powered, ventilation-based drying system.
Daniel Lane photos Kauai Farmacy makes a line of medicinal products for the kitchen and bath “We grow a diverse range of herbs using organic fertilizers,” explains Doug, “and we use a ventilation-based drying system, which maintains medicinal value.” Walking past cinnamon and allspice trees, Doug explains the intricacies of blending tonic herbs, which are herbs that can be eaten regularly and promote general health throughout the body. Powerful herbs are beneficial on their own, but Kauai Farmacy’s tea blends are synthesized with complementary herbs. “Two plus two equals five,” says Doug, as we brush past billowy edible hibiscus leaves. “Lemongrass is great. Tulsi is great. But together, they’re superpowers!” After admiring a tulsi bush with tiers of tiny, pale-lavender flowers, I point out an enormous shrub with fat green leaves and purple veins. “That is a special mamaki plant,” says Aaron of the endemic plant that native Hawaiians use medicinally (for more information on mamaki, see this week’s Farmers Market column). “We grow four varieties, two of which are not so common.” The two-stage drying area is just past a span of comfrey, gotu kola and lemongrass. Herbs wilt on outdoor drying racks, which hang from the ceiling. Later, they are placed in a solar dehydrator that Doug and Aaron made. The intricate system is designed to safely dehydrate plants in high humidity. Large tins filled with dry herbs and spices fill the shelves in the blending room. Doug opens a tray of dried chili peppers, and I take a whiff. They smell fresh and pungent.