This week I’ve written an article for Female First: 10 Hedgerow Herbs that will Brighten Up Your Summer Cooking.
In addition to this article, which you can access via the above link, I’ve also added some extra information below about the wonderful herb foraging workshop I took part in recently.
Forgotten Herbs and How to Use them
A few weekends ago I took part in a foraging workshop, which was held at the Mangreen Centre here in Norfolk. I’d booked the course last December while I was dreaming of plump hedgerows and warm, bright evenings. Sometimes a fulfilled prophecy doesn’t always live up to the hype. Not in this case.
I’ve loved foraging since I was a small child. My Dad would always take us to woods, meadows and riverside walks. He was good at identifying things. More often than not we’d return home with glistening treasures. My Mum was good at preparing our spoils. That’s why I love local produce so much. These herbs, plants and vegetables are all part of our landscape and fabric. Sadly these free riches are often forgotten about, before they fade and turn to seed.
About the Workshop
The workshop I took part in was taught by Julie Burton-Seal, a practising medical herbalist, together with her partner, Matthew Seal, also an expert in wild herb and plants. The pair are well known in their field (forgive the pun) and so I felt very lucky to learn that they live here in Norfolk.
The day was designed for anyone who wants to improve their health in the same way that mankind has done for centuries, by using local wild plants and herbs. They teach foraging from a medicinal perspective. This is like the holy grail for me. I’m a big foodie – I love to cook, forage and I’m also extremely interested in wellbeing and alternative therapies.
The combination of medicinal foraging is a match made in heaven for me. Plus, it makes ecological sense to forage for plants and make the best use of the things that are readily available and free.
Using Herbs and Plants
The incredible thing with foraging for herbs is that you can gather all these beautiful things, store them up during the summer for the winter ahead. There are so many ways you can use your pickings – to make tea, tinctures, wines, glycerites, vinegars, herbal honey, syrups, butters, skin creams, ointments, infused oils, plant essences, herbal sweets, the list goes on.
I’ll be blogging about a poppy tincture I’ve made. It helps with insomnia, head aches, anxiety and a host of other symptoms. Do look out for more on the blog soon.
What to Harvest in Spring and Summer
Now I am only a beginner when it comes to foraging for health. Before the course my knowledge of foraging didn’t go much beyond samphire, berries, nuts, nettles and wild garlic. So here is just a small round-up of things you can forage for.
Remember, it’s always advised that you should read up on what you forage. Make sure you’re picking the right part of the plant and harvesting at the best possible time for that species. It’s also essential to only really forage, and then only consume, what you can positively identify.
Julie and Matthew recommended a good book for identifying wild flowers and herbs. It’s called Wild Flowers by Simon Harrap.
Available: Late spring, early summer
Habitat: Gardens and grassy hedgerows
Good for: Leaving you energised yet calm at the same time!
How to prepare: Harvest the flowers and place around one tablespoon in boiling water to make a hot infusion. Steep for a short while and drink as a tea.
White Dead Nettle
Available: Gather tops whenever flowering, which can be almost any time of year.
Habitat: Hedgebanks, roadsides, gardens and waste ground.
Good for: Stops loss of fluids from the body, whether excessive menstrual flow, diarrhoea or a runny nose. The flowers are full of nectar, enjoyed by insects and children alike, and the leaves can be used for cuts and splinters.
How to prepare: Leaves and flowers can be eaten, raw or cooked.
Available: Flower heads with upper leaves, collected in early summer.
Habitat: Grassland, road verges.
Good for: Blood cleaning. Used for chronic constipation, skin complaints, chronic degenerative diseases and bronchitis. It has been included in many anti-cancer formulae, and helps balance hormone levels.
How to prepare: Use 1 or 2 heaped teaspoons of dried red clover flowers per cup or mug of boiling water and allow to infuse for ten minutes. Strain and drink.
Available: Flowering tops; masses of creamy-white flowers in high summer.
Habitat: Marshes, streams, ditches and moist woodland.
Good for: The number one herb for treating stomach acid problems, while also benefiting the joints and urinary system. Good for fevers, flu, diarrhoea, headaches and pain relief. Known as the ‘herbal aspirin’.
How to prepare: Use a rounded teaspoon of the dried meadowsweet per mug of boiling water. Infuse for 5 minutes. Best made in a teapot so you can keep the aroma in.
Available: Can be gathered in handfuls from early spring until the plants flower in the summer.
Habitat: Hedgerows, farmland, stream banks and gardens.
Good For: Make into a juice for swollen glands, fluid retentions, tonsillitis and bladder irritation. It’s also just a great spring tonic, said to boost one up, post-winter.
How to prepare: Use the young tops in salads, juice along with other vegetables and fruits and fill a jug with a large handful and top with water. Leave to stand for a few hours and you’ll be left with a refreshing tonic.