In this COVID-19 era, it sometimes seems as if you as an individual can do little more than stick to the rules: put on your face mask, keep your distance and wash your hands. What many people forget is that a lot can be done to build up a good resistance. In Suriname there is much to be found in nature in that area. An example of such a healthy plant is marva.
Marva (Lippia alba, from the Verbenaceae family) is a rather inconspicuous plant with many names and just as many uses. The Sranan name is blakatikimenti, the Saramaccan name piëpië páu, in Sarnami it is called podiná, and in Surinamese Dutch the elders are also known to call it soldatenthee (soldier’s tea). In Suriname, this plant that seemed to have been forgotten for some time, has once again been gaining in popularity over the past several years, especially as a tea. This is in part due to the efforts of Dennis Tauwnaar, of Pikin Sranan, who cultivates marva and processes it into packaged dried tea on his bio farm. Pikin Sranan, which means Small Suriname, is the project in Lelydorp where Dennis Tauwnaar practices organic farming. On his farm, he uses organic methods to grow various teas, herbs and other crops. Guided tours are also provided.
The leaves (and the stems) of the plant are mainly used to brew a delicious, aromatic and refreshing tea. The scent – and the taste – are a bit lemony – and also somewhat comparable to mint, although marva is milder. Its use as a tea was already known many years ago: in Suriname marva is also known as soldatenthee (soldier’s tea), because soldiers in the 19th century already brewed tea from this plant that grew so easily everywhere. The leaves can also be used in lemonade, as an addition to cold alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, in salad dressings and in various hot dishes. In Lebanese cuisine, it is used in the preparation of meat. Finally, marva is also frequently used during rituals, as for example an ingredient for a wasi, a ritual bath.
Mother Nature has blessed Suriname with an abundant natural pharmacy. Marva is also used – and not only in Suriname – for oso dresi, home remedies, by different groups of the population. Among other things to lower blood pressure, for its calming effect, to ease menstrual problems and for its anti-inflammatory properties. Let us be clear however: those dealing with medical issues have to consult a regular doctor. You should also inform your doctor of any natural remedies that you are taking in order to prevent any unwanted side effects or interactions. But the opposite is also true: those who go to the doctor can also try to see if nature can lend a helping hand. A nice cup of marva tea is healthy ánd delicious!
This text was previously published in, in a slightly shorter version, in Sabaku 59, May-June-July 2019.
Tekst: Marieke Visser
Foto’s: IMoesan Multimedia