Celebrating June - growing, picking & preserving edible native flowers

Glennie Kindred
Wednesday, 25th June 2014

Glennie looks at how catching the right moment to pick plants and finding ways to preserve them for the winter months, creates an ever-deepening connection to the land and the seasonal cycles.

With the rich abundance of plants and herbs coming into flower, this is the main time for cutting and drying them for future use.

When we value and use the native plants in this way a whole new world opens up within us. We learn to make the most of what we have growing around us and not to waste nature’s gifts. No longer passive observers of nature, we become engaged and thankful for the plants and their ability to heal and feed us. We become empowered by our knowledge and actively engaged in our own healing.

Our knowledge and confidence grows each year and is strengthened with each experience of restored well-being and our ever-deepening understanding of the interconnected web of life.

Harvesting your ‘weeds’

Keeping up with nature’s wild fecundity is a full-time job, and increasingly I am dropping my conditioned need to have everything looking tidy in the garden. The garden is full of surprises: plants grow in unexpected places, form unexpected relationships and new plants arrive on the wind or via the birds. 

Eventually all this wild fecundity will need to be weeded out to give conventional vegetables room to grow, but if your garden is made up of edible plants and medicinal herbs then these crops are utilised and turned into food and medicines. The amount of so-called weeds are cause for celebration as they are harvested, eaten, made into wine, ales, cordials, green smoothies, tinctures, herbal oils, pickled or dried. Nothing is wasted, and everything is valued. Anything left over goes in the compost. This is sustainability at its most immediate.

A freshly picked wild native salad of corn salad, ransoms, chives and lady's smock flowers 

Edible flowers

Most of the edible leaves you have been eating since the spring will be desperately trying to flower now. Once the flowers form, then the leaves become bitter and inedible. You can eat the flowers of all the plants that you eat the leaves of, so the flowers become the next crop.

Pick flowers fresh just before you use them and add them to salads or as beautiful colourful garnishes. Use them for making flower vinegars, flower cordials and flower wines.

Flower vinegars

Good to make when you need to pick the flowers to prevent the plant from flowering but don’t want to waste the flowers. Simply pour some organic cider vinegar over the flowers. The herbal properties of the flower are preserved in the vinegar. Delicious to use in salad dressings and to drink hot with a spoonful of honey.  

Chive flower vinegar 

As the chive goes into flower, it is good to pick it so the plant gives its energy to the leaves. You will get another flower crop later. Chives are rich in iron. After a month, strain off the beautiful pink vinegar and rebottle in a dark jar to preserve its colour.  

Flower wines 

Elderflower, Dandelion, Hawthorn blossom, Broom, scented Rose Petals, or any combination of edible flowers.

Cowslip wine was famously good, but of course you can only make it if you yourself grow an excess of cowslips. If using elderflowers or hawthorn flowers, gently strip them from their stalks using the fingers; for dandelions, cut off as much of the green stalk as possible; for broom, pull the yellow parts from the green calyx, which is bitter. For roses, remove the petals from the plant without cutting the plant, so that the rosehips will grow.

Ingredients

4 pint glasses (2.3 litres) of flowers stripped from their stalks or calyx

1 gallon (4.6 litres) of water

8 oz (225g) minced or chopped sultanas

3lbs (1.35kg) sugar

3 lemons

3 oranges

6 fl oz (175ml) cold black tea

I teaspoon yeast

Method

1. Pour boiling water over the flowers and leave covered for 3 days. Stir every day. 

2. Strain off the flowers. Bring the liquid to the boil adding the juice and finely grated rind of the lemons and oranges, sultanas, tea and sugar. Return to the bucket and when lukewarm sprinkle the yeast on top.

3. Cover with a tea towel tied round the top of the bucket with string and let this stand for a week.

4. Carefully strain off all the ingredients, and pour into a clean demijohn, and fit the fermentation lock. Bottle when fermentation stops.

Further information

Find out more about Glennie Kindred's book, Letting in the Wild Edges.

Glennie Kindred's latest book, Sacred Earth Celebration is available for a special price of £7.46 from our Green Shopping site

 

For more foraging inspiration, see:

Our Chris Hope's foraging series

John Yeoman's 'Feed Yourself for Free' articles

Foraging for oyster mushrooms

Feed yourself for free: the 12 'Survival Plants' Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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PRRoots |
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 06:36
Thank you Glennie for giving voice to the practice of "Letting in the Wild Edges", a practice I've found myself embracing ever more deeply. At 60, I've 42 years of gardening under my belt (less a few years of fallowness). With the maturity of years has come the faith and confidence in Mother Nature to lead me in our dance, rather than me needing to push into contortions of my feeble human design. As our partnership has matured, my yard and garden are wilder, messier with more ragged and seeminly unkempt places. But it is also lusher, more vigorous, more abundant and more supportive of bees, birds and small critters. And some not so large... a black bear took a nap under a 100 year old spruce in my front yard this morning. The yard abuts a busy street and I was 10 feet away, window between us, back to the bear, oblivious until a friend called to say I had a weird reverse Goldilocks tableau happening.

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