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.
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.
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.
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.
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
6 fl oz (175ml) cold black tea
I teaspoon yeast
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.
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:
John Yeoman's 'Feed Yourself for Free' articles