Tash the Herbalist.
"Nature is all around in Berlin, it’s just about opening our eyes and hearts to see and feel it."
Tash is the first local nature hero that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and she is someone who truly embraces our beautiful natural world. Through her practices, Tash encourages us and excites us to spend more time outdoors, whilst teaching us about the benefits of the wildlife we have around us. A co-creator of AvantGardenLife, Tash is a herbalist, wildcrafter, cook and artist. She spends her time teaching people how to take control of their own health and the health of our planet through various workshops and projects.
At AvantGardenLife they concentrate on the practice of sustainable wildcrafting, foraging, local herbalism, intuitive cooking and nature protection. Everything is collected from their shared garden in Strausberg, Brandenburg, the surrounding forests, sourced from local farmers, or on their many travels. They develop recipes, fermented products and medicine from these local plants; concentrating on sustainability, circularity and zero waste. Their main aim is to bring herbalism and food back to the traditional grassroots methods of gathering and preparing. They bring people together, through collaborating and working with others, as a team, or alone. They accomplish this through educational workshops, pop-up dinners, creative catering, art installations and interactive art pieces.
We asked Tash some questions about how she found her way into these practices and her advice on how we can find our way to stay in touch with nature here in the city. We got some truly wonderful insights, alongside a beautiful and magical photoshoot with Nini Martini:
Where did your passion for it stem from?
Herbalism/wildcrafting/foraging has been a lifelong development for me. I grew up in an alternative ‘hippy’ community with my parents and their friends, so from an early age I was exposed to natural medicine, living in nature and home cooking straight from our garden. A few of my parent’s close friends were also practicing herbalists, so I grew up with natural medicine. From a young age I was drawn to their work in wildcrafting, making mixtures, potions and learning how to treat simple ailments. My mother also worked as a vegetarian chef, so I grew up in a kitchen with her forever experimenting with new herbs and spices, and so I developed my love and affinity for this world.
Can you tell us a little bit about what wildcrafting, foraging and herbalism is?
Wildcrafting is an ancient practice that is about gathering materials from the natural world to use for various purposes; most often medicine and food, but also basket making, clothing, ritual and household items, carpentry, crafts and more.
Foraging is a type of wildcrafting that refers to the practice of harvesting plants from their natural “wild” environment - primarily for food. Care should always be taken to remove only a few plants, flowers, or branches, so plenty remains to continue the supply. Not just for us, but also all other living beings.
Herbalism is the study or practice of the medicinal and therapeutic use of plants. It is practiced in many different ways; from the hobby herbalist, to the lay herbalist, all the way to the medical herbalist.
Why do you like to teach others about it?
I am fascinated by the beauty, simplicity and at the same time complexity of the herbs – how they work on the body and how healing they can be. I am learning constantly from them and about them. I have a deep respect and passion and feel inspired every day as well as honoured to be able to work with the natural world. Passing on my knowledge and enthusiasm to others gives me a lot of joy. I love seeing the excitement and enjoyment on people’s faces as they discover something new or unexpected about the natural world.
I also want to encourage others to use their imagination and reconnect with their instinct when it comes to nourishment and healing. There are no rules and we are all individuals. Flavours can be as wild and fancy as your imagination allows them to be. I love the creative scope of herbs, there are so many things to make: from tinctures to shrubs, oxymels to mead and endless combinations within these.
Another passion of mine is spreading the word about sustainable herbalism, circularity and the zero-waste world - Using weeds as medicine and edible weeds for our health, by way of plants that are over-abundant, such as the simple dandelion. Sustainable wildcrafting is incredibly important. Foraging has become more popular again, but people forget that the forest is not a supermarket where you just take what you want, instead we need to nurture and work with nature. We need the plants, not the other way around. Plus, we should remember that we are not the only beings with this need.
Why do you feel Berlin is a good place for these practices?
Berlin is abundant with green space. Filled with parks, urban gardens, little forests and we are surrounded by the Brandenburg forests, which are very accessible by public transport and bike.
How do you feel we can stay in touch with nature in a big city like Berlin?
I think staying in touch with nature is more about feeling at one with the natural world around us than going and sitting in a forest. It is the intention that matters, the connection you feel. We are all interconnected, but we have been conditioned to believe that we are not. This is one of the reasons we feel so disconnected. The first step is to re-connect our perception of “staying in touch with nature”. Nature is all around in Berlin, it’s just about opening our eyes and hearts to see and feel it. Have plants on your balcony, in your house or in your backyard. Plant where you can. Be creative and feel what makes you feel in touch with nature. It can be as simple as a vase of beautiful wild flowers or a small cactus plant or a visit to the botanical gardens.
And last but not least, how does it make you feel to be in nature?
I feel at home, grounded and whole. Plants, insects, animals, rivers, mosses and microorganisms – we are all connected, and I feel this more deeply when I’m out in nature. I feel this connection gets lost for many of us living in modern, urban societies.
To find out more about Tash and AvantGardenLife, check out their website: avantgardenlife.com
To see more of Nini Martini's magical photography, you can find her at:
Thank you Tash and Nini for sharing your wonderful practices with us! ***