Plant & Tree

Woad

Woad

Woad is the plant that makes the blue dye worn by Celtic warriors of Briton.
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You remember Braveheart?

The leaves are fermented in order to obtain the blue paint which as well as making the warriors look frightening, was also effective in treating their wounds.

A poultice of fresh leaves can also be used for treating wounds.

Woad was the main blue dye in this country until Indigo was imported from eastern lands in 1660. It was used to dye cloth, wool and skin blue. A pink dye is yielded by the younger leaves if you use an alum mordant.

Gather the leaves in the plant’s second season, before she flowers.

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Good King Henry

This plant is part of the Chenopodium family, most of which are good edibles. You might know Fat Hen, the sister of Good King Henry. It makes a good salad when the leaves are young, and can be lightly steamed as it gets on a bit.

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Soapwort

Soapwort

As the name suggests, soapwort leaves can be boiled in water to make a soap froth containing a good amount of saponin for washing with. In the summer it has pinky white flowers.

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Leaves of the Spring Trees 1

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Grazing has begun in earnest over the past few weeks. The Hawthorn trees have been in leaf for a fortnight and are extremely tasty.

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Nibble on the little bunches of leaves, and as they come into flower over the next month, you can eat those too. The leaves get more bitter as they get older, so take the opportunity now. Hawthorn is heart medicine, regulating blood circulation and pressure, and keeping the ticker ticking.

Elder leaves are also appearing, and the newest leaves are sweet to eat, giving spring immunity as the seasons change.

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Look at where the Elder is growing, making sure the ground seems clean with good soil. Do not eat large amounts.

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Happy grazing.

Coltsfoot appearing

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Coltsfoot flowers have been out for a couple of weeks. They grow beside pathways, woodland edges and rough ground.

Nicknamed ‘Son of the Father’ because the flowers appear before the leaves, it is the classic remedy for coughs and chest complaints. The traditional sweet ‘cough candy’ was made of Coltsfoot.

The Gypsies say that wherever Coltsfoot grows, coal will be found below. Keep it quiet though, or they’ll start mining.

We will follow this plant and discuss its many uses as the flowers disappear and the leaves shaped like a ‘colt’s feet’ pop their heads above ground.

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Cleavers – Goosegrass – Stickyweed

Cleavers starts growing again in February.  Children (and some adults) stick it to each others clothes and hair.

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Growing in abundance throughout Britain, it is one of the finest medicinal herbs and not bad in the pot.

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We use the whole green plant above ground (before seeding) in stews. Chop it up to avoid stringyness and don’t carry it for more than a day as it wilts very quickly and loses it’s vibrancy.

It isn’t the most tasty of pot herbs, but is one of the healthiest. Mix it with some stock or wild garlic (ramsons) to give it some flavour. Cook for about 5-8 minutes. Don’t eat raw, it gets stuck in the throat.

Try experimenting with frying it in butter, adding some water at the end just to soften it up.

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As medicine, Cleavers is a purifying tonic, cleansing the blood, the lymphatic system and our internal workings generally. Make a healthful tea with a small handful of fresh herb and boiling water, leave to steep for 10-15 mins then drain and drink.

More specific effects are the reduction of swollen glands, ulcers and tumours.

small-cleavers-closer-pluckley-27209If you crush the plant into a pulp (or chew it)  you can apply the juice to blisters, cold sores, burns and to wounds to stop the bleeding.

The tea makes a good skin wash.

Avoid taking this plant internally if you are diabetic.


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Sorrel

Sorrel grows in fields and hedgerows and is just beginning to push up it’s new leaves

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This is a good raw trailside snack, with a  slightly citrus twang.  Add it to salads and stews for flavour.

It was a favourite vegetable of the Tudor period and appeared regularly at the table of Henry VIII.

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It contains oxalic acid so don’t eat huge amounts of it, though a good handful in your salad is absolutely fine.  Sorrel enlivens the tasetebuds and and gets your digestive juices flowing.

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Sorrel grows in fields (as above) and on hedgerow banks and field margins.

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Ramsons – Wild Garlic

The first wild garlic we have found this year.

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Growing in woodland and shady damp places we use ramsons for putting raw into sandwiches, eating on its own or for adding flavour to pot.

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Garlic is good for immunity, and helps lower your blood pressure. When eaten by itself it can be fairly strong, so have a bottle of water handy.

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If you have any trouble identifying it just pick some and give it a smell…

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Spending the night in the garlic can make you keep the smell for days.

small-garlic-flowers-pre-salisbury4The flowers taste good too.

Chickweed

We eat a lot of this plant. It is both common and tasty. It makes a great salad, eaten raw, and is good lightly steamed and added to the stew pot. Cook the whole upper of the plant. The Mouse-ear (hairier leaves) variety cannot be eaten raw.

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For medicine this herb is cooling for the skin. Wrap some in a cloth, dip it in warm water and apply to skin abrasions, boils, blisters and bruises.

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A lipbalm is made by adding tallow (animal fat) and applying to chapped lips and weather beaten skin.
Chickweed is a mild laxative (so don’t eat huge amounts, though even a whole chickweed salad doesn’t have any disastrous outcome) so a strong tea can be made for constipation.

It is said that when the Chickweed flowers are open, there will be no rain.

New dock leaves

Walking through the woods the other day we spied some newly emerging dock leaves pushing their way through the forest floor.

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Dock leaves are full of tannin and when eaten are very bitter and no good for you. To make the mature leaves more palatable they need to be boiled in several changes of water to rid them of tannin.

Ed tried the new dock leaves raw and found them fairly tasty. The bitterness was not there. From this we make the assumption that the new small leaves, especially when they’ve been covered by forest leaves, are good to nibble on, and good for the pot.