I harvested a little Russian Comfrey today, to make a healing foot ointment. The plant is still in flower but the leaves will stay contain many of the active constituents. Also plucked for the table were a small number of Daisy flowers, some Ground Elder, a little Garlic Mustard and a few pretty Pelargonium flowers. The Ground Elder itself is still on top form for foraging although it is starting to become quite dirty in some locations, due to bird droppings and general honey dew dripping from aphids and ants in the trees above. So I would say that by now it is just past it’s best and I need to focuss my forager’s attention elsewhere.
Here are today’s photos:
Here is a White Dead Nettle, setting seed alongside the Middenweg and the park. I think you can quite clearly see how the flower and now seed clusters encircle the square Labiate family stem, quite unlike the unrelated but often mistaken Stinging Nettle. Both plants are edible.
Above is German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) growing close to the White Dead Nettle.
Above is Brassica rapaWild Turnip. It smells of cabbage when picked and the flower heads remind me of broccoli. It was growing close to a patch of very young Fat Hen (Lambs quarters) but both were unfortunately in a bit of a dirty location so not for the plate tonight.ill certainly keep my eyes open for both tomorrow though as they are perfectly in season at present and make very good eating when cooked. All parts of Wild Turnip are edible and tasty.
I was also very pleased to spot some Calamints in flower for the first time this year. Photos of those tomorrow hopefully.
Today, a quick update on the Edible Table Planter which I set up on our roof terrace on April 11th. Just a few weeks on, herbs and salads in the planter are now pluckable! That seems pretty good to me, especially during a very dull weather period.
Here’s a before photo…
Here’s today’s photo…
I planted self seeded plantlets which had sprung up in my Permapots. The plants I included are:
Cut and come again lettuce
I also threw in a sparse handful of beetroot seeds, we will eat the leaves.
We have been away to Wales this summer; had a fabulous time visiting family and also an isolated barn in Pembrokeshire National Park. There were too many wild herbs to mention them all and as I am just getting back into the swing of being connected to the world again here a couple of photos…
Behind this beautiful washed up crab is a shoreline variety of chamomile. It smells wonderful and is much larger than the usual variety.
This is a very small part of an enormous goji berry hedge. It grows to within a few metres of a windswept beach.
I recently bought a wonderful second hand copy of Herbal Remedies: A practical beginner’s guide to making effective remedies in the kitchen. It contains instructions on several traditional herbal remedies that many modern herbals omit. One, which I read with interest, is Vinegar & Brown Paper, as featured in the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. Apparently it is quite an effective remedy for sprains, bruises and sore joints. It made me think more about the virtues of vinegar. So here are few preparations which you may like to try.
If you like investigating this sort of thing, you may be interested in the Urban Herbology Apprenticeship Course. The course covers foraging, crafting herbs, fermentation and nature celebrations, among other topics!
Vinegar and Brown Paper This traditional remedy (taken from Hedley & Shaw’s book) is said to relieve swollen aching joints and limbs. I have not yet tried it and am very interested to hear from anyone who does! Why not let me know in the comments or contact boxes below.
1. Cut 5 or 6 pieces of brown (packaging) paper, just big enough to fit over the affected area.
2. Place in a saucepan and cover with Sage vinegar (read on for how to make this).
3. Simmer very gently for about 5 minutes, until the brown paper becomes soft and has absorbed some vinegar, yet is not broken down.
4. When cool enough to safely handle, place the brown paper on the affected area and hold it in place with cling film (not too tight).
5. Cover with a roller bandage and leave in place for 4 hours. Hedley & Shaw recommend reapplying fresh vinegar and brown paper twice daily.
These are prepared in a similar way to tinctures but vinegar is used as a carrier for the herb properties, rather than alcoholic spirits. Many herbs can be easily preserved in vinegars, a few favourites are Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Chamomile and Parsley but why not try wild herbs such as Chickweed, Catnip, Lemonbalm, Motherwort, Ramsons or Hyssop? Dried or fresh herbs can be used but vinegars are a great way to preserve a glut of fresh herbs so that they can be used throughout the darker months.
Vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, is beneficial in its own right. It helps to build bones and has the ability to extract more minerals (such as calcium) from herbs than water. So preserving herbs in vinegar can provide a mineral rich preparation which is also very tasty and can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used in salad dressings, taken a tablespoon daily in a glass of water as a tonic, added to green vegetables and beans whilst they cook, used a flavouring in food or used in specific remedies. Adding a splash of vinegar to the cooking water of green vegetables dramatically increases available calcium.
To prepare, completely fill a glass container of any size with chopped fresh herb and then fill it completely again with vinegar. Seal (not with a metal lid), label and allow to sit (macerate) out of direct sunlight for between 2 and 6 weeks. After this time strain and bottle the herb vinegar in sterile dry containers. Use plastic lids or waxed paper held in place with strong rubber bands. For advice on sterilising see the post on Cough Syrup.
If you prefer to measure your herbs and vinegar there is a traditional recipe which recommends adding approximately 25g dried chopped herb or 50g chopped fresh herb to every 600ml of vinegar. Pure malt vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar can be used.
Herb Vinegar Hair Rinse When my sister and I were children, my mother would add a little lemon juice to our final hair rinse. It makes hair shine beautifully and is a natural conditioner (shampoos are slightly alkaline, conditioners slightly acidic). Vinegar hair rinses work in the same way and can be very beneficial to the scalp. I like to use apple cider vinegar when my scalp feels overloaded with hair products; it feels cleansing, cooling and calming. Surprisingly it doesn’t make hair smell of vinegar.
To prepare simply add 1 tablespoon herbal vinegar, apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice to about 250ml water. Pour the rinse over washed hair and massage into the scalp. Leave on for about 5 minutes and then rinse with plain water.
Sage vinegar is thought to darken hair,
Chamomile vinegar to lighten hair,
Parsley vinegar to relieve dandruff,
Rosemary vinegar to condition dry or falling hair
There are dozens of other uses for vinegar, I’d love to know of any which you or members of your family have used. Get in touch through the comments or contact boxes!
Louise says that… “It’s really good stuff and clears a heavy cold in a matter of days. I always keep a bottle handy in the fridge and it keeps for ages. I have even given some to colleagues in work.”
The combination of herbs is said to be soothing, antiseptic, antibiotic and expectorant. The aim of the syrup is to thin out mucus and help open up the bronchi. It is recommended by Hedley & Shaw to help relieve deep restless chesty coughs, tightness from colds and sore throats.
I made a batch this week, it tastes wonderful. There are several ingredients but all are easy to obtain and the method is really quite simple. Some of the ingredients contain strong volatile oils so this syrup should be taken in small quantities for a short period of time and should not be used by pregnant women.
Sterilising storage bottles
Remember that your storage bottles need to be sterile, to prevent contamination and prolong the life of your potion. This is best done just before you set to work with the herbs as if left until the last minute there may no time to do it properly.
Clean the bottles/jars thoroughly with hot soapy water and a bottle brush,
Let them drip dry
Sterilise them (with lids/caps off and the openings facing upwards) in a warm oven (about 110 oC) for about 10 minutes. Beware that plastic caps or lid liners will melt and burn if left in too long.
Turn off the oven and leave them in there whilst you make the potion and get ready to pour. If you need to leave them waiting in the oven for a long while, loosely fit the caps/lids when cool enough to handle, to prevent contaminants getting in.Some people find that cleaning them on a hot dishwasher cycle also does the trick.
Cough Syrup (Makes approximately 350ml)
Not suitable in pregnancy or for babies
Put water and chopped herbs into a pan and bring to the boil. Cover with a tightly fitting lid.
Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Cool a little, strain through a fine mesh seive, pressing with a clean wooden spoon to extract the goodness.
Discard the herb and keep the liquid.
Return to the heat and simmer slowly, uncovered until reduced to 200ml (making a decoction).
Add 450g honey, dissolve and simmer for a few minutes, stirring all the time, until of a syrupy consistency.
DO NOT OVERHEAT as the syrup will burn.
Cool a little before pouring into sterilised bottles.
Label (date made and contents) and keep refrigerated to avoid fermentation.
Best kept in a corked dark glass bottle, as a screw topped bottle may explode if fermentation takes place.
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