Thursday, 23 April 2015

The gifts of Spring - beauty, food & medicine

I spent Saturday 11th April at Springfield Herb Sanctuary on a work day.  I helped dig over a bed which will be used for planting herb plants.  I kept the Dandelions and Docks I dug up to take home to turn into Dandelion tincture and Dock tincture.  I also had a walk round with Sarah, my herbwife mentor, seeing all the herbs that are coming up in her herb beds at the sanctuary.  This is really helpful for learning to identify plants at different stages of growth, which is one of the things I am learning as an apprentice herbwife.  Sarah very kindly let me dig up a young Tansy plant to take home to plant in my own herb bed for future use. For future events at the Sanctuary see

At Springfield Herb Sanctuary

 View from the Sanctuary over the Cotswolds

The herb beds I helped to dig

 Elecampane coming up

 Lady's Mantle 

Solomon's Seal

For more photos see

Back home in the kitchen I put Dandelion roots & leaves into a jar and filled the jar with vodka to make a another batch of tincture.  I have been taking 2 half teaspoons a day since decanting the first batch, it definitely seems to be helping with my digestion.  I washed and chopped up the Dock roots into a separate jar to make tincture, which should be helpful for poor absorption, anaemia, skin problems, sluggish bowels, constipation & liver congestion.  Any dock with yellow roots can be used as this indicates the presence of the medicinal compounds.

Last weekend I harvested a big bag of Nettles and a bag full of Cleavers at the allotment, plus a few Wild Garlic leaves.  Some of the Nettles were used for Nettle Aloo (see recipe on previous post) as part of a dinner for friends, accompanied by raita made with natural yoghurt and finely chopped Wild Garlic leaves.  I also made Nettle Pasties (see recipe below) to take to the woods for a New Moon picnic.  My husband got in the act and made Nettle Soup with onion, potato, celery and nettles, with some Miso added at the end to make a nice rich dark nourishing broth.  The Cleavers were roughly chopped and put in a jar with vodka to make Cleavers tincture, which should be useful for lymph congestion or swollen glands such as Tonsilitis.

I also paid a visit to the woods and picked Hawthorn leaves to make a tincture with brandy, which can be combined with tinctures of the flowers and berries as they appear, to get the maximum benefit.  Hawthorn is renowned as a tonic for the heart and circulatory system.  My husband dug up a patch of Lesser Celandine, also known as Pilewort, after the nodules on the roots which look like haemorrhoids.  This is an example of a traditional plant signature in which physical features of plants were thought to indicate what sort of conditions the plant would be beneficial for.  And indeed Pilewort is a remedy for piles, both as dried herb used to make an infusion for internal use and to make an ointment from fresh herb by making a double-infused oil and adding beeswax, to use externally.

Recipe for Nettle Pasties - makes 2 large pasties or 4 small pasties

8oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
4oz butter
3-4 tablespoons of cold water
- Sift the flour & salt into a bowl, add the butter chopped into lumps and stir to coat the butter in flour.
- Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle the water over the mix and stir with a round-bladed knife till the mixture sticks together in large lumps, if it is a bit dry add a bit more water.
- Collect the dough together into a ball.
- Knead it lightly on a lightly floured surface to make a smooth dough.
- Wrap the dough in cling-film and leave in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Large colander of washed nettle tops with stalks removed
Medium onion finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves very finely chopped
1 medium mushroom finely chopped
Wedge of blue cheese crumbled
2 beaten eggs
Salt & pepper to taste
- Saute the onion to soften it, add the garlic & mushroom.
- Steam the nettle tops in a little water for a few minutes till well wilted.
- Squeeze out the liquid with a wooden spoon, drain the liquid into a jug to use in stock for soup.
- Mix the vegetables with the cheese & eggs, add seasoning.
- Roll out & cut the pastry to make rounds.
- Put filling in the middle of pastry rounds and top with another round, press the edges together all the way round to seal.
- Use any left over pastry to make pastry decorations, stick on with a little water.
- Bake in a medium oven for about 25 minutes.
- Eat hot or cold, they are perfect for taking out for a picnic.

Nettle Pastie

Dock roots being prepared for tincture

Dock Root Tincture

 Cleavers Tincture

Hawthorn Leaf Tincture

Lesser Celandine/Pilewort

Making Pilewort Double-infused Oil


'Hedgerow Medicine' Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal
'Letting in the Wild Edges' Glennie Kindred
'Wild Drugs' Zoe Hawes


  1. Your posts are lovely, Anne. Always so inspiring. And your recipes are fab! I'm definitely going to try these pasties, and the Nettle Aloo you posted about previously.

    1. Glad you like them, let me know what you think of the recipes xx