Thursday, 2 July 2015

Midsummer harvest

The allotment is bursting with life at the moment with plants at different stages of their cycles.  Some have not yet flowered, some are now coming into flower such as Agrimony, Borage and Mullein, some are developing fruit such as the Apple trees and Broad Beans and some have flowered and set seed such as Sweet Cicely.   I picked some Borage flowers to use in salads; Sage flowers and leaves to preserve; Mullein leaves to dry for tea for dry irritable coughs, bronchitis, pleurisy, laryngitis, & swollen glands; Chamomile flowers to use in infused oil & Sweet Cicely seeds to make a flavoured aperitif.





 Sweet Cicely seedheads

Chamomile flowers

I made Mullein flower essence by putting some of the Mullein flowers in a bowl of spring water to infuse in the morning sun, this was strained and bottled in a mix of half water, half brandy to make the mother essence, which can be used to make stock bottles with 7 drops of essence to a 30ml bottle of half spring water, half brandy, to use 4 drops at a time for energetic effects.  Glennie Kindred in 'Letting in the Wild Edges' states that Mullein helps to clear stuck energy, find clarity and affirm your higher purpose.

Making Mullein flower essence

Back home in the kitchen I got on with processing the herbs I had harvested in the allotment.

I made a double-infused oil by putting some Chamomile flowers in a small pan of sunflower oil and heating in a pan of water for 2 hours, then taking out the flowers and putting in a second batch of flowers for another 2 hours, then straining the oil through clean muslin.  The oil can be used as oil or made into a salve for skin troubles such as itchy or red eczema, sunburn & acne rosacea, small wounds, aching joints & nerve pain.  The oil can be used for massage or as a moisturising oil for the skin.

 Chamomile flowers

Chamomile flower oil

I used the Sage flowers I picked to make a conserve by taking fresh Sage flowers and an equal weight of sugar, grinding them together in a mortar and leaving the mixture in a glass jar in the sun.  I put the leaves in a jar with cider vinegar to make Sage vinegar.  This will be left to infuse for 2-3 weeks then strained and bottled, for use as a hair rise or as a gargle for sore throats.

Sage contains aromatic oils which can stimulate the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands, reproductive hormones and the immune system.  It contains tannins which help dry excessive mucus in the respiratory tract and reduces sweating.  A cool infusion can help reduce menopausal hot flushes & night sweats.  It promotes circulation and can help the memory.  It is very good for sore throats and coughs used as a gargle or in tea with lemon & honey.  It can be used as a hair rinse for dark hair, often combined with Rosemary.   Caution - Sage should not be used in high doses or for prolonged periods of over 3 weeks at a time. 

 Sage Vinegar

I used the Sweet Cicely seeds to make an aperitif.  A handful of Sweet Cicely seeds were chopped up and put in a large glass jar with 500ml of vodka and left to steep in a cool dark place for 4 days.  This was strained and bottled in a clean glass bottle.  This will be left to age for 2 months in a dark place at room temperature before use.  The aperitif can be drunk before meals to stimulate the appetite or as an after dinner drink to settle the digestion or medicinally for flatulence, colic or abdominal gripes. 

Making Sweet Cicely apertif

Sweet Cicely apertif

I also used some herbs picked in the woods the previous weekend to make remedies.  I put chopped up Bugle flowers and leaves to steep in vodka to make a tincture for dislocations and broken bones as suggested in 'the Herbalist's Bible' by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal.  This will be left in a cool dark place for a month then strained and bottled.  It is suggested to use this by soaking a cotton wool ball or a gauze pad in the tincture and apply over the injured area and kept in place for at least half an hour.  The use of Bugle for dislocations and broken bones comes from the great 17th century herbalist John Parkinson, who states it is helpful used both internally and externally.  He also states Bugle is helpful for bruises & wounds and for liver and gallbladder congestion by taking a decoction of leaves and flowers in wine and the bruised leaves or fresh juice is helpful for ulcers & sores.  


 Bugle tincture

I also made Herb Robert cream with Herb Robert picked in the woods and Rosemary picked from the patio outside the kitchen, based on the recipe in 'A year with James Wong'.  Herb Robert was traditionally used as a cure-all.  This cream can help soothe skin conditions including bruises, varicose veins & chillblains.

Herb Robert cream recipe

8 whole plants of Herb Robert 
6 sprigs of fresh Rosemary about 15 inches long
8 teaspoons of honey
16g beeswax
8g emulsifying wax
80ml olive oil
6 drops compound benzoin tincture/friar's balsam

Put the roughly chopped Herb Robert and Rosemary in a large mortar with the honey and pound to make a paste.  Leave to sit for 10 minutes to let the sugar in the honey draw the active ingredients from the plants.  Put the paste in a piece of clean muslin and squeeze out the juice into a small bowl.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the juice and put into a small pan, heat quickly until it steams but doesn't boil then turn off the heat, this much increases its shelf life.

Melt the waxes in the olive oil in a glass heat-proof bowl over a pan of boiling water then take off the heat.  Pour the heated plant juice into the the bowl of melted waxes & oil, add the compound benzoin tincture/friar's balsam and whisk together.  Continue whisking while it cools slightly to stop the ingredients from separating, then pour into jars.  The cream will keep for up to 3 months in the fridge.

Apply to affected areas 3-4 times a day as needed.

Herb Robert

 Making Herb Robert cream

The finished Herb Robert cream

I also bottled the Hawthorn flower tincture, Hawthorn leaf & flower vinegars & Hawthorn leaf & flower elixirs which were started in May.  See for details of making them and what they will be useful for.  I have used some of the Hawthorn flower vinegar in salad dressing, it had a nice subtle flavour.  I also bottled the Plantain tincture and Nettle tinctures which were also started in May, as discussed in previous blog posts.  

Bottled Hawthorn remedies

Plantain tincture & Nettle tincture


'A year with James Wong' James Wong. 
'Hedgerow Medicine' Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal.
'Letting in the Wild Edges' Glennie Kindred. 
'Practical Herbs 2' Henriette Kress.
'The Herbalist's Bible' Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal.


  1. I did a shamanic journey recently where Mullein was of my spirit helpers.
    Thanks again for superb bloggage x

    1. Did your experience of Mullein fit with the energetic properties given by Glennie Kindred?

  2. Interesting that the sweet Cicely aperitif can both stimulate the appetitie and settle the digestion.