Herbstalk to Connect Urban Community with Nature

Most of us city dwellers don’t know much about what’s growing around us in sidewalk cracks, abandoned lots and our own backyards. While we may only see weeds, people like Steph Zabel, who works at Harvard University’s Herbaria, sees plants with potential. So she’s bringing a day of education about herbs to our urban community in the hopes that it will help Somerville residents feel more connected to the natural world that exists all around them.

“The whole mission of this event is to connect people with plants,” Zabel said. “Especially people who live in the city, like we do.”

There are already many herbal events around New England, but most are out in the country and for professionals in the industry. Zabel’s Herbstalk will bring herbalists from all over together to educate the general population on the healing powers of herbs, how to identify herbs and how to use herbs for things like reducing stress.

“There’s so much technology, information and stress,” Zabel said. “I think there’s really a lot of healing in plants. I think they have a lot to give us.”

Like Zabels’ favorite herb, pictured on the Herbstalk poster, Mugwort, which grows around the city in abandoned lots and along railroad tracks. The herb reaches about five feet tall and aids in digestion. The backs of the leaves are silvery, connecting it to the moon and dreams.

Herbstalk is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about herbs through the 20 herbal and holistic sessions that will be held throughout the day at the Armory on Highland Ave. There will also be a market where attendees can buy herbs, hand-crafted products and items made from herbs. Live music, the Clover food truck and a children’s activity area will round out the day.

Zabel was inspired by the area’s burgeoning local food movement, like the weekly farmer’s markets, and wanted to create an event where people could come together to learn more about herbalism, a subject many are unfamiliar with.

“The world of herbalism is very big, there’s a wide range,” Zabel said. Some people are focused on clinical, scientific, laboratory-oriented herbalism, while others are focused on folk medicine and traditional healing practices. Many areas of herbalism will be represented at Herbstalk so people can learn the basics of such things as using herbs with pets, making infused oils and herbal first aid, among many other topics.

Zabel described Herbstalk as “herbal speed dating” where attendees can go from one class to another throughout the afternoon to get a taste of what’s going on in the world of herbalism. And while Zabel originally wanted to host the event in Somerville to bring herbalism to the urban community here, there are people coming from far beyond the city limits.

“According to Facebook, people are coming from all over New England, Maine, Western Mass., Vermont,” which Zabel said surprised her, though she is happy the event is having such a far reach and that so many people are interested.

Zabel has been interested in plants from a young age and growing up in suburbia didn’t have a lot of access to nature, one reason she wanted to bring an event like Herbstalk to Somerville.

“This is an event for urban dwellers, the local community, to become more connected with the plants that grow in the city,” Zabel said. “I wanted to make something accessible to people in the city.”


Saturday, June 9, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Arts at the Armory (191 Highland Ave.)
$5 suggested donation

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