Monday, 16 March 2015

A refreshing retreat in Wales & making the most of spring leaves

I have been 'off air' for a bit as we had a week away at a retreat centre in mid-Wales.  It provided a much needed space away from the busyness of daily life, I purposefully did not use the internet whilst on retreat, to give my mind a chance to relax.  I took the opportunity to read a couple of new herbal books I recently bought. Firstly 'The Book of Herbal Wisdom' by Matthew Wood, which draws on European, Native American and Chinese approaches to working with medicinal herbs, with in-depth information on 40 herbs and how they work to help the body and mind heal themselves.  Secondly 'The Herbalist's Bible' by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal, about the definitive  herbal compiled by 17th Century herbalist John Parkinson, with Parkinson's original text on the medicinal uses of a selection of plants and a commentary on their use today, including recipes to try out.

I didn't do a lot of practical herbal stuff whilst at the retreat centre, though I did use some rosemary from a glorious rosemary bush in the garden by the kitchen for herb tea and with roast potatoes.  I also made some salads with foraged wild ingredients such as nettles, cleavers & dandelions and herbs from the garden such as fennel tops, parsley & lemon balm.  On the last weekend there was a work party to plant trees and build a fence to protect a new hedge that has been planted along the edge of the retreat centre's land.  We planted a mixture of hedgerow trees including my herbal ally Hawthorn.  We also planted 5 young fruit trees in a corner of the land which is becoming a small orchard.  I look forward to going back in years to come to see how they grow.

Buddha statue in early morning light

 Rosemary bush

Tree planting

Since returning home from the retreat I have been trying to catch up with my apprenticeship tasks.  This month we have been asked to use Nettles for tea, to devise our own Nettle soup recipe and to make an iron-rich Nettle tonic for someone we know who has anaemia.  I picked a nice batch of nettles in the allotment and foraged other plants that are coming up in the allotment to add to salads & soups including Cleavers, Ground Elder, Ramsons & Salad Burnet.  I decanted my first batch of Restorative Nettle tonic (recipe on previous post) and started a second batch with nettles foraged on a visit to the woods.  

I also decanted and bottled the Cramp Bark tincture and Hawthorn bark tincture I started 3 weeks ago, to add to my growing store-cupboard of remedies.  The Cramp Bark tincture will be useful for cramp (it does what it says on the bottle!) and the Hawthorn bark tincture should be useful for diarrhoea according to the little I have been able to find out about medicinal uses of Hawthorn bark.  It is astringent and has also been used for Malaria and other fevers.

 Ramsons aka Wild Garlic

Young Ground Elder leaves

Salad Burnet

Nettle Soup recipe - for 4

1 medium onion chopped
400g parsnip chopped into small chunks
400g potato chopped into chunks
100g celery chopped including leaves
1 large cloves garlic finely chopped
Colander full of fresh Nettles washed
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 litre vegetable stock
1 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg to taste

Saute onions in oil, add root veg & celery & sweat for a while while preparing Nettles, add Nettles, stock & flavourings, bring to boil & simmer till veg tender.

I had some left after the first serving so boosted it for a second meal by adding 4 large button mushrooms chopped into chunks, another colander of Nettles and a small amount of other fresh leaves including ground elder, Ramsons & Sorrel, added some more stock and salt & pepper, brought to boil & simmered till heated through.  I grated parmesan on the top for serving, this was very tasty.

 Nettle Soup

Egg, potato & spring leaf salad recipe - for 1

2 hard-boiled eggs - roughly chopped
300g boiled potatoes - chopped into chunks
Small pan of washed Nettle tops - blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes
Mixed spring leaves as available - I used Cleavers, Ground Elder, Salad Burnet, Ramsons, Lambs Lettuce & Sorrel
Mayonnaise to cover eggs, potatoes & spring leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste

Egg, potato & spring leaf salad

Next time I will be posting about visting Springfield Herb Sanctuary, identifying emerging plants and picking herbs to make into remedies.  So watch this space.

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