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Local and seasonal foodParticipant diaries

Healing herbs, soups and plants

By 6th July 2018No Comments

Newport in Bloom replanted a tub with plants that had been used to make potions, pills and lotions.

Lungwort or Pulmonaria was reputably so called, because the leaves are lung shaped. It was once believed that a tincture, made from the plant could benefit the lungs – and stop bleeding, according to my Collins nature guide.

Many benefits are claimed for Blue Hyssop, used since Biblical times. It is taken for coughs, colds, catarrh and to make poultices as well as a savoury food flavouring. Its aromatic leaves were scattered on sick room floors and it’s a great colour. But our plant now looks really awful damaged from strong wind and probably from the cold earlier this season. It looked so great last year! Hopefully it recovers.

Soapwort, also known as Bouncing Bet, is planted in its own pot to restrain it. It does feel soapy when rubbed, although the root is more efficacious for the making of delicate fabric wash, but it is poisonous when imbibed in excess, destroying blood cells.

Valerian has a pretty flower and a name derived from the Latin valere/to be healthy and strong – must try it! One claim is that rats like it and that is probably what the Pied Piper of Hamelin stuffed in his doublet and hose to lure the town rats away from Hamelin and into the River. It is taken in prepared form for “nerves” and to induce sleep.

All the above are vigorous and are spilling out of the planter. The helpful signs in the tub are now hidden. However, Echinacea behaves more demurely and probably more beautifully. As a drug it boosts the immune system and lessens symptoms of infections. We prepared the tub to show plants that were permanent, unusual in civic planting and maybe to stimulate interest in the serious science of these ancient plants as well as their folklore.

The Scots lovage stimulates circulation and aids digestion, its blanched leaves added to soups and stews. I haven’t yet tried it in soup but used sorrel leaves from self-seeded plants in my own garden, the leaves were sautéed with the last of the winter greens, herbs and good stock, and added cream. It certainly looked very green, maybe a handful of frozen peas would lighten the look and colour and sweeten it. It was good with garlic croutons.

So much looks good in the garden at this time of year. I was given tree lupin seeds a few years ago, planted up 3 of them and thought they looked fabulous. There is only one flowering now, however it has bounced back from recent wind flattening, so not really upright but still flowering on. There are also lots of seedlings.

Recycling – just used old credit card type plastic to apply pollyfilla in gaps and cracks pre painting, worked well!

Reading, just borrowed Penelope Lively’s Life in the Garden, an author I like and this is a good read.

A Visit to Branklyn Garden this week in Perth, it was looking SO good! Still some flowering meconopsis but many other delights, beautiful and clever planting, lots for sale including unusual stuff from their own stock which is so tempting and not mass produced and locally grown.

Barbara Bell

Gardening has meant a lot for a long time. From seeds sewing to to looking at colour (can be chaotic) combinations interspersed with recycled stuff. I am much involved with local public space planting. Also have edibles in a smallish raised bed, with mixed results! I look out for ideas for when cooking for my vegetarian grandchildren.

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