Summer Beer Forage

Another sunny day in the south of Glasgow and a brave dozen set off to Queen’s Park for a Sunday afternoon forage. We started the walk at Locavore‘s new shop on Nithsdale Road and a little home-made Elderflower champagne.

One of our first encounters was with the wonderful Lime (Tilia x europoea) – a tree whose sweet, mucilagenous buds and flowers make a quick walking nibble and a tea to relax and ease anxiety. Limeflowers have a short season and we spotted only a couple out in full bloom. Once they do pop it is said that you can hear a Lime tree before you see it, due to the volume of buzzing insects feeding on the nectar. The Lime tree is also a friend to parents, apparently “fractious” children can be left under the tree for a wee calm down.

Around the pond we found some Watermint – in the running for a future beer but stronger smelling than it tastes – and lots of Plantain (Plantago spp). Plantain is a great healing plant and extremely widespread. The two main species are Broadleaf (Plantago major) and Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata). I tend to use the two interchangeably for the handily combined action – both soothing and tightening – useful for wound healing when used externally and for sinus problems and allergies as a tea. Both varieties have a distinctive horizontal ribbing on the back of their leaves – making them distinguishable from other, similar, scrubby-green-leafy-things. We saw some massive Broadleaf specimens – certainly dinner-plate size, although they can be small enough to confuse with Daisy leaves. The Ribwort has lance-shaped leaves and a central spike which looks like a reed and the flowers have a pleasant, mushroomy taste.

Queen’s Park has a small but vigourous patch of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) which was our main beer-related option. According to our brewer Declan from Clockwork Beer company, Meadowsweet was used in the past in Scotland instead of Hops – as these are native to the south of England. I wonder if this explains the large amounts of Meadowsweet outside the Tennent’s Brewery near Glasgow Green? Medicinally, Meadowsweet contains salicylates – also found in Aspirin – which account for its pain-killing properties. Meadowsweet is also regularly used as an anti-acid for heartburn. This dual action is a great illustration of the complementary character of whole plant medicines – the isolated compound as used in Aspirin can cause acid problems, whereas the whole plant protects against them.

Along the way we also found some great nibbles in Sorrel leaves and Red Clover flowers and some yet to come in ripening Hawthorn and Sloe berries. We rounded off the walk with some Nettle beers at Clockwork and ideas to create the next foraged beer.

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