Elder, Fennel and Violet – Tales from Battlefield Gardens

Medicinal plants have been part of the storytelling tradition for centuries – from fairytales to Shakespeare. Amanda Edmiston of Botanica Fabula has written a wonderful new story about two brothers for the Battlefield Community Gardens, with appearances from 3 medicinal plants – Elder, Fennel and Violet. Amanda’s tale reminds us of the tortoise and the hare, with the tortoise-like brother tending and collecting plants along his journey. The plants then form a part in his proving how the quest ended. You can add your own moral, I like to think if we look after the plants, they’ll look after us.

Elder Tree     Sambucus nigra

The Elder tree gives us two different medicines – from the flowers in Spring and berries in Autumn. The sweet, heady flowers can be used to make cordial or champagne or if you want to have maximum berries later in the year, just pick a few heads of flowers and make an Elderflower sugar. Elderflower tea is perfect for colds, ‘flu’ and allergies – with Nettle and Plantain they make a great hayfever tea, add Eyebright if streaming or irritated eyes are a problem.

Elderberry is full of anti-oxidant vitamins and is a great anti-viral. You can make a syrup for coughs and colds or a culinary vinegar for salad dressings and marinades. You will know that your Elderberries are ready for picking when the purple berries hang heavy from the branches – you may also see pigeons happily munching away at the top of the tree. Elderberry seeds can be slightly irritating to your stomach, so do be careful if you’re eating any of them raw – just try a couple to check you have tasty, ripe berries, then make sure to process the rest well to remove the seeds or dry and use as a tea.

 

Violet    Viola spp.

Sweet, cooling violets make a great syrup for coughs and colds, especially for children. The cooling character is great for fevers and also the emotional heat of anger. For hot, angry skin conditions, Violet tea can be taken, with a Violet cream to soothe and protect.

 

Fennel    Foeniculum vulgare

With a familiar kick of Liquorice-like aniseed flavour,  Fennel is used as gripe water for babies to ease disrupted digestion and by mothers to help milk production.

Fennel Flower

Fennel is a very portable medicinal plant – the tiny flowers and seeds are especially strong and pungent and can be nibbled to ease the stomach or the lungs – aiding clear breathing and good digestion to keep a traveller strong and nourished. If you’ve missed the flowers, the rest of the plant is also edible and medicinal and can be chopped to make a tea.

 

Look out for more Tales of Medicinal Plants as the Battlefield Community Garden develops.

 

 

 

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