So many useful plants! If you are not sure of how they can be used, for medicine and or food, use the search bar on this site.
Today I was kindly sent a batch of beautiful photos of herbs in the park by Joop Eisenberger. I often meet Joop in Frankendael whilst I hunt for herbs and he hunts for dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, bees, plants etc. He is well known for taking the most wonderful nature photos in this area. Joop, thank you so much for sending these to me! I am showing a few photos today and will post more over the coming days. It’s always inspiring to see the work of someone who takes such time and effort to get just the right shot.
Firstly, black rosehips of Burnet Rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia). These are really quite an amazing colour, compared to most other hips. I showed the flowers of this shrub a few months ago and now the hips are maturing and standing out gloriously. All rose hips, of whichever colour, from whichever species, can be transformed into delicious and nutritious vitamin c rich conserves. I look forward to giving these a gentle squeeze, when I return from holiday, to see how ripe they are. Rose hips need to be fairly soft but not at all rotting, to be harvested. Whatever preparations are made from hips, the pips (seeds) must be carefully removed by sieving, before the final storage as they are covered in tiny irritating hairs.
I thought most St John’s / Joan’s wort flowers (Hypericum perforatum) were over now but this photo taken yesterday prove otherwise. I have taken a bottle of oil, infused with this plant, on holiday with me. It is my sun lotion. Contrary to popular beleif, this sunny little wonder herb can prevent sunburn as well as soothing aches and pains and uplifting depressed minds. Avoid the dried herb for depression, it tends to make things worse. The tincture seems to do a better job. If you are interested in this herb, take a look at the writings and recordings about it by Susun Weed. The herb can interect with the contraceptive pill, so beware.
Speaking of contraceptives, I’ve a renewed interest in Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) flowers and seeds at present because where I’m holidaying is absolutley covered in the plant. There is some extrememly interesting reseach into its effectiveness as a birthcontrol herb, by Robin Rose Bennett. Read her research findings and updates if it is of interest to you. In short, it appears to work like a herbal morning after pill. If taken regularly it stops working. So if you facy trying it, read up on it thoroughly, get some advice and make sure you harvest the right flowers or seeds!
Lasty today, here is a poisonous herb, also associated with birth, or otherwise. It is called Pijpbloem in Dutch, Birthwort in English and Aristotolochia clematis in Latin. The Doctrine of Signatures was responsible for wrongly linking many herbs with dieases of body parts which they resemble. This is one such herb. It was thought to resemble the birthcanal or uterus and was used by many for quite sometime to help childbirth proceede and for other gynacological issues. It does cause the uterus to contract, eventually, but it all also causes kidney damage and failure and thus sometimes death. It’s quite a beautiful plant, creeping around the woodland area with unusual leaves, tendrills and a vibrancy that really makes it stand out from the other plants. It is very poisonous and shouldnt be ingested.
Lots of beautiful flowering herbs in the park again today. My camera kept taking over exposed photos so here are the passable ones…
Mallow (Malva sp.), full of slippery soothing mucilage and goodness. This is a nourishing and useful herb to grow. I tried it several years ago in one of my Permapots and although the plant faded away during a harsh winter, the seeds pop up every year and provide me with some tasty leaves. There are perennial varieties, I need to identify the one in this photo properly but all are useful and edible. There are masses of these plants along side some roads at the moment. The flowers look quite striking as they are much larger than those of most wild herbs.
St John’s / St Joan’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), with it’s sunshine filled flowers and leaves which can be turned into a mood lifting tincture and muscle soothing oil. I use the infused oil as a very effective sun protection lotion. I have very fair skin and it always works. It also helps to sooth sunburn when that does arise. Susun Weed pioneered this use of the herb, I am very grateful as I really dislike lots of the chemicals in commercial sun lotions.
I’ve had my eye out for this herb little beauty for a long while and finally I found it in flower today – Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris). A herb with lots of history and a multitude of uses.
Lastly today, Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria). Panacea of the ancients, now used mainly as a remedy for the pain of stomach acid indigestion and gall stones.
There is just enough time remaining to make a simple Midsummer Schnapps, to help celebrate the summer solstice on 21st June. In Scandinavian countries, where the midnight sun arrives to delight at midsummer, Schnapps is a key ingredient of many celebrations. There are several recipes available for Midsummer Schnapps, here’s one which I like. Ideally it is made a month or so before midsummer, allowing time for the properties of star anise and juniper berries to infuse into the vodka, but St John’s wort will infuse far quicker. Just a few days are required to get a reasonable colour, pleasant flavour and sunny properties from this herb, into the liquor.
St. John’s wort is renowned for helping people through periods of depression. Capsules of the herb can have unpleasant side effects and may interact with some drugs so beware if you are taking any medication. The tincture (and the Schnapps is a weak tincture) is more likely to leave you feeling sunny and calm. St John’s wort blooms on midsummer’s day, it is full of sunshine in so many respects, making it perfect for this drink. I have not tried it but apparently the flower buds may be frozen for later use. This recipe calls for buds which are fully developed but not yet opened, thus pick them before midsummer’s day. The plant is full of a red oil, particularly at midsummer so use a good field guide to check you have the real thing and tear a petal to see if it “bleeds” red oil, showing it to be ripe for picking.
Recipe for Midsummer Schnapps
Pick St John’s wort flower buds before noon or before the sun becomes too hot, leave sepals on the plant or strip them from harvested flowers. They do not add a good flavour to the schnapps.
Pick only black, fully ripened Juniper berries (or buy them dried and crush before use). Blue and green Juniper berries do not taste pleasant. If necessary wash and carefully dry the flower buds and berries with paper towels before use.
Use wholes, fresh or dried star anise pods.
- Add about 3/4 cup of St John’s Wort flower buds, 45 – 55 Juniper berries and 10 Star anise pods to a clean glass jar with tighly fitting lid (preferably sterilised in dishwasher or low oven).
- Add enough unflavoured vodka (40% alcohol / 80 proof ) to cover the berries, pods and flowers.
- Secure the lid and leave in a room temperature, dark place for anywhere between 3 days and a month. (As mentioned above, the St John’s wort will impart it’s properties in just a few days, the berries and pods require much longer but you should get a pleasant Schnapps after a few days).
- Shake the jar gently every few days.
- When you are ready, strain and filter your infusion into a clean (preferably sterile) glass bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid.
So, get your flower garlands and schnapps ready and enjoy the summer solstice!