Years ago, Little Rock was home to an excellent organic and health food store known as Beans, Grains, and Things. In addition to selling local produce and meats, Beans, Grains, and Things had an extensive selection of bulk herbs and spices that not only included tasty things to for cooking but also medicinal herbs of all kinds. Back in those days, I was living in a little town south of Hot Springs called Bismarck, and I made regular trips to Little Rock just to stock up on things like kava and milk thistle, things you just couldn’t find in a town of a few hundred folks.
Fast forward a few years and Beans, Grains, and Things was replaced by a Wild Oats store, and the bulk herb section shrank. A few years after that, Wild Oats was bought out by Whole Foods, and the bulk herb section shrank even further — to the point where now there are only a few culinary spices available and almost no medicinal products. And sure, Whole Foods has a lot going for it — and they still sell many herbs in little bottles — but it just wasn’t the same.
If only there had been Maison Terre Natural Products when I was living down in the Ouachitas. Operated by Sarah Brown from her quaint house in North Little Rock, Maison Terre offers a wide variety of medicinal herbs, essential oils, and prepared products that can be delivered right to your doorstep for a very reasonable price. Brown is a modern-day apothecary, selecting high-quality herbs, producing her own soaps, candles, and edible products — and she operates one heck of a back-yard garden that utilizes some cutting edge growing techniques to maximize yields of organic herbs and produce in a limited area.
Brown’s inspiration for beginning Maison Terre started with a bar of eucalyptus soap — or rather, the lack of a bar of eucalyptus soap. Putting the truth to the old saying about necessity being the mother of invention, when Brown couldn’t find what she wanted in Central Arkansas, she simply decided to start making her own. Coupled with her wide knowledge of herbs and a desire to help her community, that wish for a bar of soap turned into an internet marketplace that ships nation wide.
So what has Maison Terre done for me? Well, I recently treated a toothache with a few drops of her clove oil, a natural anesthetic and antiseptic. And because essential oils are so powerful, Brown has also developed a clove throat spray, perfect for freshening breath and fighting gum disease. A recent night of over-indulgence at Big Orange’s reverse happy hour had me reaching for her hangover recovery tea, a mixture that treats the nervous stomach, headache, and inflammation that too much alcohol brings — and replaces some much needed electrolytes. Two cups an hour apart had me up and ready to face the day with a smile.
The cooks among you will love her selection of high-quality culinary herbs and spices, but don’t pass up her banana-date chutney, a flavor extravaganza that works as a glaze for meats, a spread for crackers — or as a tasty treat right out of the jar. Other products like vinaigrettes and an instant jalapeno cheese grits mix make Maison Terre a one-stop shop for food that is good for the palate and the body.
Brown’s love of good natural food doesn’t stop with her online store, though. Through her non-profit Cereus Solutions, she has instituted something called Project Bloom, a massive plant give-away and educational project that seeks to help people in an urban setting learn how to grow their own food. I’m going to be exploring this project in much more detail in the next issue of Arkansas Food and Farm, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, go browse the Maison Terre site — I guarantee you’ll find something you can’t live without.