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YERBA SANTA (Eriodictyon sp.)
February 2017 Issue | Vol. 5, No. 3                                            MORE THAN A FLAVORING FOR FOOD & BEER












 
 
 
 

Executive Chef
COPPERWYND RESORT
FOUNTAIN HILLS, ARIZONIA

PAUL STEELE

Executive Chef
WESTIN KIERLAND RESORT
CHRIS MASCO

Executive Sous Chef
HYATT REGENCY SCOTTSDALE
BRIAN CONTRERAS

Beverage Manager
HYATT REGENCY SCOTTSDALE
DAMON THOMPSON


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Yerba Santa | (Eriodictyon sp.) | A GRAS food flavoring's noble past. One of the GRAS (“generally regarded as safe”) flavorings in the food industry, Eriodictyon californicum, has a reputation for having an off-kilter taste. Sort of cherry, but not really, and mostly a balsamy sweet. The unique flavor makes it a good fit for beer, for which it is used; and, most particularly, as a pharmaceutical flavoring to mask a drug’s bitterness, for which it also is used. Yerba Santa fits as a pharmaceutical because it was, up until the 1960s, a pharmaceutical; and one with an enviable success rate. Yerba Santa’s actions—heal without harm—lived up to the common name given by Spanish padres—yerba santa, which means “holy herb”. Records show the padres at San Antonio de Padua Mission (Heinsen 1972), about 40 miles north-northwest of Paso Robles, placed Yerba Santa among the top three medicinals they used. Eriodictyon, a member of the Boraginaceae family that grows in high desert biomes—Eriodictyon californicum and E. angustifolium in California and Arizona, respectively—looks nothing like its cousin borage flower that chefs use to add color and elegance to their dishes. Instead of a hairy coat to protect it from the elements and attract moisture, Yerba Santa has leathery leaves that conserve moisture. Yerba Santa has a thing about moisture, actually. It tends to the fluids in the body, specifically fluids regarding digestion, the spleen, and the lungs, which correspond to the bitter, sweet, and warming nature of the herb. Here’s the simple rundown: