Discover healing plants

Comfrey

Comfrey for eczema, nappy rash and inflamed skin. Its old name is bone knit. These plants grow by riverbanks, and their deep roots draw nutrients up from below to make a plant rich in nutrients, especially potash. It is versatile and can be used to make a compost activator, seed compost, liquid feed, and fertilising mulch, but useful for treating skin conditions above because it has substances called allantoin and rosmarinic acid in the leaves. Allantoin boosts the growth of new skin cells, while rosmarinic acid helps relieve pain and inflammation. These were picked on the riverbanks by the footpath from Alverstone to Sandown:

I made this lovely salve by heating up pure coconut oil in a bain marie and squeezed comfrey juice (from pounded leaves) into the liquefied coconut oil. It is really soothing on my inflamed skin, and the best thing is, unlike steroids, I can use this as often as I need. It is not as powerful as pounded comfrey leaves applied directly to the shores, but it is less messy!

This plant is my first port of call if ever I need to dress a wound. 

Do not eat comfrey.

I made a small tub of primrose salve. We don’t have that many primroses, so I just made a very small quantity.

Stinging nettles

Stinging nettles is a superfood, packed with nutrients and is a high source of proteins. It has also been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times. There is a lot of legends and myths surrounding stinging nettles, which makes it a very fascinating weed. We have loads in the garden!

This is my favourite dish: nettles sauteed in garlic and mushroom, which I serve with pan-seared salmon. They are also delicious with scallops, which are delivered fresh from Cowes.

I make ‘nettleade’ as well: steep 2 cups nettle to 1 cup of boiling water. After a few hours, squeeze a lemon into the nettle water. Add honey to taste, and top up with sparkling water. This is a very refreshing, 100% natural drink!

NETTLEADE

I make a delicious cream of nettles, roasted garlic and asparagus soup (all from the garden). This is very simple: roast 2 heads of garlic and a bunch of asparagus. Saute 1 sweet onion in butter and olive oil. Add 2 cups of fresh nettles. Saute for a couple of minutes and pour in hot chicken stock. Add the roasted vegetables (remove garlic skin first). Simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste. Blend until smooth, and stir in cream.

I dried nettles and dandelion leaves for tea. This tea will be full of goodness. High in calcium and magnesium, this herb also cleanses and detoxifies to clear the system of harmful toxins that may be affecting fertility.

NETTLE AND DANDELION TEA

Note: the below is red deadnettles. It doesn’t sting, and tastes good in salads (I add this to smoothies too). PLUS, it has strong medicinal properties. In the 17th century, Nicholas Culpepper had a number of interesting things to say about it in his book entitled Culpeper’s Complete Herbal: A Book of Natural Remedies for Ancient Ills. Bees love red deadnettles too.

Pictured on the right is mixed leaf salad garnished with red deadnettles.

Gorse

Gorse – fiercely piercing, the flowers are slivers of the sun and antidote for hopelessness. Nice account of it in Samuel Culpepper’s writing.

Harvesting for flower essence (as per Bach flower remedy) is different from harvesting for food. You have to choose the hour, let the plant choose you, connection. Hope the potency is retained as these buds travel halfway across the world.

Wild garlic

People go crazy about it because it is so flavoursome compared with normal cultivated garlic, but there are many POISONOUS plants that look like wild garlic that can kill!

There is fatality every year from people eating very poisonous plants that look very much like wild garlic that are very poisonous, such as crocus and Lords and Lilies. Wild garlic also looks like Lily of the Valley and three cornered leek. Photo below show wild garlic amongst other similar looking leaves.

Amateurs think that the way to distinguish wild garlic is to crush the leaf between the fingers and smell. But here’s the thing: you may get the first one right, and then the smell lingers on your fingers and you mistake a poisonous one for wild garlic based on the smell that’s already on your fingers.

We plant wild garlic in our Kitchen Garden for visitors. It’s really, really flavoursome, and once you’ve tasted wild garlic, the commercially farmed ones pale into insignificance. Luckily for us, there’s a crop growing near the house.

I love wild garlic butter. Pictured below: garlic butter with black garlic (left) and with wild garlic (right). I use wild garlic literally every time I cook if I have a fresh batch handy.

Cleavers

We used to call this prolific weed that grows in the garden and literally everywhere “sticky willie” because it has this annoying habit of sticking on to clothes. Geese love eating them, so they are also known as goose grass.

But sticky willies are really a good medicinal plant for cleansing your insides. Just chop some up, put in a jar, cover with spring water (or tap water that you let run for a while) at room temperature and leave to steep for 12 hours. Sweeten with some honey and drink to give your insides a good cleanse.

Garden greens

There are plenty of greens in the Kitchen Garden or just growing wild around the kitchen garden. They’re so good to put into a simple chicken consommé.

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