Sunday, 11 September 2011

Season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, and me on a Herbalism Walk

I am contemplating a Giant Autumn Chutney Production Session. My last Giant Autumn Chutney Production Session was the year before last and took a week. It only ended when the smell of vinegar finally broke Partner and he begged me to stop (big wussy). I ended up with a mountain of chutney and gave it to people for Christmas, I thought we would be eating chutney until 2015, but actually it was quite delicious, so the jars we kept got eaten very quickly. Also it is quite cheap to do if your mother has been saving jam jars for you (as has mine) and if you get all your plums/ apples either from the market or from people with trees. Hmm. I feel a preserving session coming on, off to dig out my recipes. (In case you feel one coming on too, FYI you don’t need a brain to make chutney, it isn’t like marmalade where you have to test for a setting point, so you can put it on and wander off). In the meantime, and on the subject of Using Autumn Plants, this morning I dragged myself out of bed and went on a hedgerow herbalism walk with Of People And Plants in Milton Country Park.
Making good use of the things that we find (elderberries), things that the everyday folks leave behind, la la wombling free
And do you know, I had a really good time. Latterly I have become better at dealing with the whole plant issue, i.e. I can recognise some of them (well, you know, I can tell a daffodil from a cactus) and I am starting to have some kind of a vague awareness of seasonality, but my knowledge is tiny and I am always happy to expand it. So this was a walk where we had a bit of a nose round Milton Country Park to see what was around and what its properties might be.

We found burdock (I didn’t even think burdock was a real plant!), comfrey, hawthorn, birch, elderberries, rosehips, and something else I have forgotten the name of which I was not to eat despite it looking rather attractive. Vanessa and Jude who were running the walk had brought tinctures and syrups and teas, made up from plants they had picked, for us to try. I stood sniffing my hawthorn tincture thoughtfully until she told us it would re-balance our emotions and protect our hearts, and readers, last week was a bit of a week, so I snarfed it straight down. I cannot tell you if it has helped, because there was a lot of brandy in it, and that certainly did. So much so that I had to refuse further tinctures as I cannot drink in the morning due to being a big girl’s blouse and a lightweight. I did, however, have some elderberry syrup,
It even looks good for you, doesn't it?
And it was really delicious. Unfortunately I think elderberries are on their way out now, but I took home with me a recipe for how to make it and next year I will be ready to pounce. What an amazing tree the elderflower is, isn’t it? Elderflower cordial, elderflower champagne, elderflower fritters, and now elderberry cordial. Apparently it is excellent for colds and as a general winter tonic, as is rosehip syrup.

Making tinctures seems to be very easy: you cover your plant with brandy, leave it for ages, and shake it occasionally, just like sloe gin. Another walk-goer and I were talking about sloe gin, and she told me about a place in Cambridge called Wandlebury which has lots of whatever tree it is that sloes grow on, so I am going to go and have a look. I am encouraged that I could remember the name Wandlebury because this was post-tincture.
This is a willow, which is apparently the best kind of tree to hug if you are feeling a bit depressed. Or - have a tincture!
Anyway, if you are around in Cambridge there is another walk sometime in the winter and they are really interesting so it’s worth going. I am going to have a look now into making tinctures and syrups and things because I like the idea of having a cupboard filled with scary-looking bottles and whipping them out whenever a pick-me-up is needed, while my loved ones cry, no! Please let me just have an aspirin!

On a different subject altogether, dangerously buoyed by my ability to a/ attend regular yoga classes and be able to execute down dog without falling on my nose b/ fit into my thin jeans again HA!, I thought I might have a go at an exercise class (bonus knitting reference around 3.35). In fact I thought I might give Zumba a try tomorrow. I’m really unco-ordinated and I don’t do lycra. This is either a brave new move or me setting myself up for the worst evening of my life so if you think it isn’t a good idea, please could you stop me in time!

(Since I linked a Victoria Wood scene, obligatory Let's Do It! link. Do you know what I thought while I was listening? I thought, I wish I had a vinyl flooring catalogue. Seriously, I did. I need a few more tinctures, I do).


mooncalf said...

I am thinking of trying Zumba too once term starts.

I'm hoping that (like jeggings) it is actually pretty good as long as you never have to say it out loud.

Vivianne said...

LOL Susie, get yourself the 'Grow Your Own Drugs' books by James Wong; you don't *have* to grow them :-) but he will tell you how to do tinctures, balms etcetc your kitchen ;-)

Rachel said...

I've heard that elderberry wine is very good, so I tried that first. Mine is currently trying to escape from the demijohn. I would like to try cordial, too, because the sugar and elderberry mixture I made to start the wine was delicious.

I love Victoria Wood! I am now in serious danger of watching far too many of her sketches when I should be out picking blackberries, or something.

kristieinbc said...

I have some dried elderberries a friend gave me, along with the recipe to make a syrup. I intend to try it when I get back from my holidays. It is supposed to support the immune system. Maybe you could find some dried elderberries if the season is already past.

Anonymous said...

I drink elderflower tea which is very good. I'm put of of syrup because of the sugar - which depletes the immune system. Tastes good though. I don't know nearly enough about the things I see and pass everyday and what I do know is from Enid Blyton! I think it is a shame that no one knows the names of trees and plants anymore. And what about all those little seeds and bits and pieces falling off the trees now? I so want to know what they all are. In the olden days ( like in Enid Blyton times) they used to go on nature walks. I want to go on nature walks! With the local Wise Woman. Except there isn't one around here.

Herbs are good. I tend to use teas mostly, but I have used tinctures. I find them really good. I have a book somewhere about making tinctures, it sounded a lot of fun. Fortunately I'm quite well, otherwise I think I would set up a little lotion and potion lab.

Foggers said...

Sugar! Mmmmmmmmmm