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Archive for the ‘Linden’ Category

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From top left clockwise: Nettle, hawthorn blossom, cleavers, ground elder, ground ivy, garlic mustard/jack by the hedge, dandelion flowers, hawthorn leaves, dandelion leaves.

One of the things I love most about spring is that it is probably the time when picking plentiful quantities of wild food is the easiest, at least in temperate northern zones such as the area in which I live. There are many edible wild spring greens in the hedgerows, woods and waysides and in no time at all you can have an abundant harvest for creating delicious and healthful meals and teas.

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A mix of wild and cultivated salad leaves decorated with primrose, three cornered leek and heartsease flowers.

Eating even small quantities of wild foods regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health as they are so nutritionally dense, vibrant, seasonal and fresh. So many of the best wild foods are those we consider weeds, but when we look at the qualities of these plants, how tenacious and insuppressible they are, we can see that their strength and vitality surely makes for a more fortifying meal than those cultivated plants that have been shipped half way round the world and sat on supermarket shelves for days. I think weed is a derogatory term, the four letter word of the plant world, which I will henceforth refer to as w**d. I do however reserve the right to use it, along with other four letter words, in the presence of my arch-nemesis ground elder.

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Young lime/ linden leaves

At this time of year we have a lovely mix of mild tasting moistening greens, like the young lime/linden and violet leaves, and more drying or pungent herbs like nettles, young yarrow leaves, jack-by-the hedge and the dead nettles. This makes for a perfect balance of nourishing and toning qualities to help build us up and get us into shape after winter.

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My little forager picking lime leaves.

The three cornered leek or wild onion is one of the most delicious additions to spring salads, tasting something like a spring onion, and the flowers make beautiful decorative additions to any meal and are also edible. They are more common in the south west than the south east and I don’t find many growing near me but luckily it has spread all over my parent’s garden so I got to pick lots when visiting recently.

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Three cornered leek

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From a distance it looks a little like white bluebells or even snowdrops but can be easily differentiated close up by the shape of the flowers and the distinctive triangular stem, hence the common name of three cornered leek. Also the smell of onion is a give away. Do be sure of your identification as both snowdrop and bluebell bulbs are poisonous.

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Wavy bittercress is a very common spring salad green which has delicious leaves and flowers and tastes much like normal cress.

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Wavy bittercress

Lady’s smock, also known as cuckoo flower, is another edible mustard family plant with deliciously peppery leaves and flowers.

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Lady’s smock

Jack by the hedge or garlic mustard is also in the mustard family or Brassicaceae. This family used to be known as the Cruciferae so if you have an older plant identification book you will find this name instead.

Jack by the hedge

Jack by the hedge

Nettles are found in abundance at this time of year and are a true superfood for the blood. You can read more about them in a previous post here.

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Nettles in the spring sunshine

Pick cleavers by the handful for use in cold infusions and juices, instructions for which can be found here.

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A tangle of cleavers

Wild garlic is one of the true delicacies of the season. If, like me, you love the fiery garlic taste then make it into a pesto by itself but if it is a bit too intense for your palette you can tone it down with nettles or shop bought herbs like basil. More about wild garlic can be found here.

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Wild garlic pesto – pungent and powerful!

Do remember when picking wild greens to be absolutely 100% sure of your identification as some edibles have poisonous lookalikes. Also avoid the sides of paths where dogs are commonly walked and always, always pick with respect to the environment and don’t over harvest. Finally avoid the edges of fields unless you know the land to be organically managed.

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At the back; cleavers cold infusion and hawthorn blossom tea. Centre; nettle pesto with jack by the hedge and ground elder. Front; wild green salad of hawthorn leaves, jack by the hedge, dandelion leaves, violet leaves and white dead nettle with nettle pesto and dandelion flowers on toast, nettle and ground elder soup.

Spring greens and flowers also make for wonderful teas.

Ground ivy has a pleasant but musky flavour which is nice in teas when mixed with something lighter like a little mint from the garden. It is great for stuffy sinuses that can go along with spring allergies.

Ground ivy

Ground ivy

And the most wonderful spring tea of all in my opinion is hawthorn blossom, the very Queen of May herself. Read more about hawthorn blossom here.

Hawthorn blossom

Hawthorn blossom

I have also written a post on harvesting spring greens in this issue of the Mother magazine.

Wishing you all a joyous Beltane and a marvellous May Day!

 

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Linden Update

When I wrote my last post on Linden, the blossoms were yet to open. I finally managed to collect my harvest about 10 days ago, when I accompanied the lovely Sarah and Therri on their rounds of the local Tilia trees.

I only collected one bagful but that was plenty for me to make a small quantity of tincture, some infused oil and a lovely linden Elixir. Linden, also known as Lime or Tilia, has a beautiful sweet honey/ floral smell which can make a gentle, subtle infused oil that will help with nervous tension and calm anxiety when massaged into the skin. It’s also antioxidant so lovely in face creams which I’ll be making a batch of soon. I used Jojoba oil to make mine, partly because Jojoba is one of the plant oils that is best absorbed by the skin and partly because it’s the only oil I had sufficient quantity of left! You could use any light, unscented oil however such as sweet almond, apricot kernel or a light sunflower. See here for my post on how to make an infused oil.

Infused Oil and Elixir

I’m particularly excited by the elixir as it’s the first time I’ve made it. I was inspired by the wonderful taste of lime blossom honey (said to be one of the best in the world) and wanted to incorporate it into a medicine which would capture the different properties of Tilia in something delicious and sweet tasting. To make it I filled a jar with Tilia blossom, the flowers and bracts, and covered it to the top with one third Lime blossom honey and two thirds brandy. I then added 7 drops of Linden flower remedy to increase the subtle healing properties of the elixir. I love Tilia as a flower essence, my experience being that it lightens my mood, opens the heart, increases perception and brings a sense of sweetness and calm to my day.
I’ll leave it to infuse for six weeks, giving it a little shake once a day, and then strain out the plant material and take it liberally, either in a little warm water or straight off the spoon! Yum.

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Wondering reverence amongst the Pines

Trees have captured our imaginations since people first walked amongst them. Possibly even before. There has never been a time when our lives did not depend on the majesty of these great beings, whether for food, shelter, fuel or medicine. As the daughter of a forester I suppose it was inevitable that my chosen path would in some way come full circle and include a special place for trees. I am so grateful for the healing provided by them, there always seems an extra special something in a blend of herbs when it contains some tree medicine!

I think trees function as nervines simply by their virtue of being. In my experience, nothing is a greater tonic to the nerves than a walk in nature, wandering through aged boughs and young saplings and feeling your gaze flooded with a thousand shades of green. The nervous system, down to the neurones themselves, bears a striking resemblance to trees, with their myriad branches and roots stretching out and connecting, sending messages and forming an incredible network, the like of which we have barely begun to understand.

A Neuron

Having said that, within herbal medicine, not many trees are considered nervines. The blossoms of Hawthorn have been described as such, Peach and Rose make great cooling remedies for the nervous system and then there’s the lovely Linden, one of my favourite trees that is also one of my favourite nervines. Linden, also known as Lime Tree (though no relation to the fruit!) is one of the herbalists greatest allies for soothing stress, tension and nervous excitation. The name comes from an Anglo Saxon root, though ‘Linden’ was originally an adjective, meaning ‘made of Lime wood’. In German, the verb ‘lindern’ means to alleviate, ease or soothe.

In various European cultures it has been associated with the divine feminine, being sacred to Freya and Frigga, Goddesses of love, fertility, domesticity and divination.

Limes are an ancient species, there is a small leaved lime in Westonbirt Arboretum that is at least 2,000 years old. Limes and elms were once the commonest trees in Britain, flourishing around 6,000 years ago, during the warm Atlantic period. These would have been our native species, Tilia cordata, or small leaved lime, and Tilia platyphyllos, the broad leaved lime. Both of these are now fairly rare, especially the broad leaved, and the lime trees common in parks and lining avenues are the common limes Tilia x europaea or Tilia x vulgaris.

A Common Lime - just before flowering.

I was hoping the Limes would be in flower by now but everything is a bit late this year. I’m waiting on them blooming any day though! I was planning to share a few more of my recipes but I’ll do an update with some ideas for using the blossoms as soon as they are ready for picking. I’ll be doing some tincture, infused oil, a flower remedy (weather permitting!) and an elixir so do check back in a week or two for some medicine making ideas. Linden is one of the last trees to flower and the blooms are only fresh for about a week so everything has to be dropped as soon as the blossoms open and the bees start buzzing. Bees are the best guides to finding a Linden in flower as they can be heard making merry with the pollen, one of their favourites, from quite some distance. There is an altogether musical quality about this tree and it’s wood was a common choice for making instruments such as guitars and recorders due to its fine acoustics.

If the elder is a venerable and wise old grandmother then the linden is a kind and gentle young lady, softly singing her child to sleep. You always feel cared for with a cup of linden tea in your hand. Due to it’s gentle nature and sweet honey like taste, Linden makes a lovely children’s remedy taken as a tea, with a little honey if required. It can soothe irritability in children and adults alike and makes a lovely footbath to aid a restful night’s sleep. In Peter Conway’s interesting book “Tree Medicine’, he writes. ‘If you are stressed, tense or overworked, you need limeflowers.’ Well thats most of us then! It is highly beneficial to constitutionally nervous types whose anxiety goes to their digestion, a pattern which I can definitely relate to, being what is known in iridology as an ‘anxiety gastric’ type.

It’s list of actions include antidepressant, antispasmodic, demulcent, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypotensive, nervine, sedative and stomachic and as such, it’s is good for more then just stress.

Linden branch - note the heart shaped leaves.

It’s been traditionally used as a heart tonic, helping to reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure, especially if the cause is anxiety driven. It does this in part by relaxing the circulation. If you try clenching your fists hard you’ll notice the skin in your palm going white where the blood has been unable to flow before turning red as the blood rushes back in. Now imagine being in a constant state of anxiety, it creates constriction which results in shallow breathing, reduced circulation and eventually dryness where the blood has been unable to adequately nourish the skin. Linden effectively treats all these conditions, by relaxing the nervous system and the circulation and soothing dryness and inflammation with its high mucilage content. In this way we can see its energy as being expansive in opening up the channels of the body to allow relaxation and flow.

It’s also a valuable medicine for the immune system being regularly drunk as a hot tea in France for colds, flus and fevers. As a diaphoretic it helps the body produce sweat which can lower a high temperature and rid the body of infection. Its anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties make it useful in respiratory conditions where it helps remove phlegm, soothe irritated passages and boost the immune system.

Interestingly, some describe it as energetically cooling and others as warming and we can see both of these qualities if we consider its ability to stimulate and move (qualities traditionally thought of as warming) as well as it’s use in cooling the body by encouraging sweating and calming anxiety.

The bracts and almost opening blossom, both of which are used medicinally.

There are also a variety of external uses for lime blossom, as the high mucilage content helps to soothe irritation and inflammation when used an an infusion for compresses or baths or as an infused oil. It is also a valuable herb for beauty as it is high in antioxidants, helps to regenerate the skin and and is thought to help clear acne when used in facial washes. This year I plan to make a nourishing and softening blend of linden and elderflower infused oils to make into face creams. Lovely.

Linden shines as a tea, having such a palatable taste that there are few who will dislike it. I included my ‘Hug in a Mug’ recipe in my recent post on rose which contains linden blossom, rose and avena, but often I just make a simple linden blossom tea and float a few rose buds on top which gives it a beautiful flavour as well as aesthetic appeal. To enhance the diaphoretic effect it is lovely taken with elderflower at the onset of a cold or flu and can be combined with hawthorn to emphasise it’s ability to lower blood pressure and protect the heart. In very large doses it can cause nausea and may be damaging so stick to 3 or 4 cups a day long term or take larger doses for a short period only.

Linden and Rose Bud Tea

The Linden is truly a gift of healing and wonder. It is strong and ancient yet also elegant and and it teaches us lightness, grace and a subtle kind of merriment. I’m excited for the first blooms which should appear very soon and will be reporting on the harvest and the medicine making as and when it happens.

A Lullaby of Linden:
I would like to sit with you
In a silence
Punctuated only by song,
Strange and sweet
And whispering of stars that fell an age ago.
Stillness and lullaby are my gifts to you.
My honied words, a subtle kindness
That tells you, ‘Dear one, stop,
You are held, you are loved.’
I’ve seen your life in a blink of my own
But to me you are unique in whichever form you appear today.
My song is your medicine.
Stillness and lullaby are my gifts to you.

References:
Picture of a neuron available at http://www.sullenriot.com/media/images/article-images/neuron.gif
Tree Medicine – Peter Conway
The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine – Brigitte Mars
Hedgerow Medicine – Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal
The Living Wisdom of Trees – Fred Hageneder
Flora Britannica – Richard Mabey

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