13 Sep 2013
I recently discovered this rather pretty little wildflower on a local walk. I didn't know what it was, so I looked it up and found that it is sneezewort, a common plant in damp, grassy places in UK.
It has load of other names, such as: sneezeweed, bastard pellitory (what did it do to deserve that one?) European pellitory, fair-maid-of-France, goose tongue, sneezewort yarrow, wild pellitory and white tansy.
The plethora of names suggests it was well-known to country folk in the past. The roots were dried and used medicinally for joint and muscle pains and gastric problems. It can be also used as an insect repellent, but is poisonous to cattle, sheep and horses. Apparently in the past it was used to make sneezing powder for practical jokes - hence, presumably, the name! Culpepper, the famous herbalist recommended it for toothache and also suggested stuffing it up your nose to clear mucus. I'm not too keen on that idea, but it would be decorative enough to grow in the garden, especially in my wild flower meadow, so I may try to collect a few seeds. it was in fact grown in cottage gardens in the past, and the familiar `batchelor's buttons' were bred from it.
6 Sep 2013
A friend and I spent a lovely half hour the other day walking in the autumn sunshine and foraging for wild fruits to make hedgerow jelly. We could only reach the ones low down, so we left plenty for the birds and animals. This is my haul - crab apples, blackberries and rowan berries.
When I got home I washed the fruits and then covered them with water in a large pan and boiled them up until they were all soft. Then I hung the resulting mush up in a cloth bag suspended over a glass mixing bowl, in order to filter out and collect the good juices.
I knew that my jelly would set well, because crab apples already contain the necessary pectin. so all I had to do next was to add a pound of sugar to each pint of juice, and then boil rapidly until the setting point was reached. You can tell when this has happened by dripping a small blob onto a cold plate. If the surface of the cooling blob wrinkles when you tilt the plate, then you are there. Bottle it up into clean, recycled glass jars and store it away to make a delicious accompaniment to cold meats and salads, or a spread to have on toast. Don't you think the colour is totally magical? The flavour is too, believe me - yum yum!
You will find this recipe and plenty of other ideas in my new series of Soul Journal ebooks - for more details click on the tab at the top of the page.