March 2014 Herb Foraging

We had a wonderful walk last Sunday in Queen’s Park, south Glasgow. It was a wee bit overcast and very windy in places, but we did have a gorgeous Cairn Terrier called Poppy to keep us amused. So, after a warming cuppa in the Glad Cafe, we set off towards the park.

Our first find was Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) – great for fevers and especially migraines – there are just a few leaves visible just now and you can still smell the strong, medicinal aroma of parthenolides. One leaf per day – ideally with some bread, the leaf can cause blisters if eaten alone – will prevent migraine by dilating the blood vessels in the head, essential plant medicine. Then, to the Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) – hiding their bright yellow flowers without the sun, but still sweet and aromatic in the stem. The flowers come out before the leaves, unusual in plants and leading to folk names like Son before the Father. Coltsfoot is an excellent cough remedy and can be made in to a tea, syrup or tincture, the stems can be candied and sucked for a sore, cough-irritated throat.

Up on the hill, we found the start of the Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) – a sour, lemony tang to the leaf, especially if torn against the grain. Highlanders call this Juicy Leaves and it is used around the world, particularly in former French colonies, for soup and sauces for fish. We also found a good display of Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) – another great throat medicine, Plantain’s dual action of tightening and soothing mucous membranes and exposed surfaces makes it a great plaster for cuts (chew your own) and also for sneezes, especially of the allergic type. Maxime managed to spot a small grove of Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in leaf. The trees are slow to wake up, but you will find some very abundant hedges as strimming promotes early growth, although it does prevent flowering as Hawthorn flowers on 2nd year growth – less of this if you cut the year before. We spotted a couple of Hawthorn berries holding on from the Autumn – these are past medicinal or culinary use, but can still be good food for birds and probably squirrels. Hawthorn leaves are tasty in sandwiches and make a suprisingly substantial snack – their old name Bread and Cheese may refer to the rich texture or mouth-feel, rather than taste.

We stomped around the windy hill, spotting the variegated leaves of Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) – a Mint or Deadnettle with pretty yellow flowers which can be used in salads. Beside the flag pole we found a flourishing green medicine chest – Nettle, Garlic Mustard, Ground Elder, Cleavers – all great for Spring Detox juicing, soups and pesto. We also found the Queen’s Park Wild Garlic Patch – probably planted by a keen allotmonteer and just budding with the first pungent flowers.

A little bit wind-worn, we wandered back down the hill towards Locavore, spotting a tub of Chickweed (Stellaria media) in the street. At Locavore we cooked up some Nettle and Wild Garlic pesto and sampled some 4 Thieves’ Vinegar I’d made earlier with Wild Garlic leaves instead of the traditional Garlic cloves. We also tried some very mustardy Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) – deceptively delicate pale-purple flowers with quite a punch.

A great lunch and time to chat and share ideas for future walks – thanks for coming and for the photos and see you at the end of April.

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