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Soothing ourselves with Marshmallow

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Autumn is the time of year where we shift our focus to what is growing below the ground and for herb harvesters, this means digging up some roots. It’s also the time of year when the shift in seasons can bring us all down with irritating colds. Thankfully, there are a number of herbs at their prime right now and we can rely upon these to provide an antidote to the sorest of throats.

Common marshmallow – Althaea officinalis – is one of these herbs and is the key ingredient in our herbal cough syrup. The root contains high quantities of mucilage, a gelatinous substance that helps to sooth inflammation – and also the substance that they first made marshmallow sweets out of. To extract this we make a decoction from the freshly harvested roots by boiling and simmering them in water for about 30 minutes.

Herbal Cough Syrup Recipe

  • 25g of sage herb leaves (fresh or dry)
  • 25g of  marshmallow root
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1 litre of water
  • about a 1kg sugar
  1. Place the herb roots into a saucepan and cover with water and bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes – this is a decoction
  2. Turn off the heat and add the herb leaves and ginger powder to the pan and infuse for 15 minutes
  3. Strain the mixture into a measuring jug
  4. Add the same amount of sugar as their is liquid (tip: if you have 850ml of water, add 850 g of sugar)
  5. Heat the mixture continually until the sugar has dissolved
  6. Allow to cool and then pour into sterilised bottles

Dosage: 1 tablespoon up to 6 times a day. Take on its own or dissolve a spoonful in a cup of hot water.

New London Herb Group

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We have recently been talking with the lovely folks at the Herb Society about the idea of getting a London Herb Group going again. Since we began our herbaling journey we have crossed paths with lots of other herb enthusiasts and it would be nice to come together to share our experience and ideas. We are at the concept stage of what this London group could look like and want to invite others to help brainstorm and discuss the shape it could take.

So we plan to meet up on Tuesday 22nd November at The Culpeper40 Commercial St, London E1 6LP from 6.30pm – 8pm.

Let us know if you would like to come along by dropping a line to hackneyherbal@gmail.com

A Lemony Love Affair

img_5373-1We’re probably not allowed to have favourites but lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a kind of crowd pleaser herb, which doesn’t sound like a compliment. What we mean is that its lemon sherbet fragrance is so pungent yet natural that it excites even the biggest gardening sceptics. Who could resist a plant that smells so strongly of dessert and sweets?
Lemon verbena is known as a nervine, which means that it has a calming effect on the nervous system. This property makes that makes the herb a good ‘night tea’ before bed. Lemon verbena is also very easy to dry, the leaves not holding much water, we have been able to dry them overnight in the summer. You could also freeze them or store them in ice cubes for a lemony, icy kick in you summer drinks!
Lemon verbena originates from Chile and Argentina where it enjoys relatively mild weather and tolerates low rainfall. This has given the herb a reputation for fragility in our winter climes however, we have found it to grow and winter very well both in the ground and in pots – though temperatures stay slightly higher in London. As long as you keep lemon verbena in a sunny sheltered spot, it will surely do well! We expect this wonderful herb to continue gaining popularity.
One easy recipe to keep in mind with many herbs, including lemon verbena, is a simple syrup. It involves warming equal volumes of sugar and water, allowing the sugar to dissolve and then adding your fresh herbs to steep in the hot and cooling syrup mix. The more herbs you add, the stronger the flavour. The syrup can be used for flavouring and sweetening many things from soft drinks and cocktails to whipped creams and ice creams. The following recipe for lemon verbena cream that you can pair with cooked plums is from http://www.thekitchn.com:

 

Lemon Verbena Cream

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 cup whipping cream

Chop and bruise the lemon verbena. Put sugar in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and stir to dissolve as it comes to a simmer over low heat. Let it simmer for just a couple minutes. Stir in the lemon verbena and take off the heat. Let steep for fifteen minutes, then put in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Whip the cream in a food processor, then add a few tablespoons of the lemon verbena syrup. Add as much syrup as you can without deflating the cream.

Serve sorbet and cream layered together in glasses or small bowls.

7 herbs / 7 fields

Influenced by one of our collected herbal stories we have decided to celebrate Midsummer in a big way this year. In Sweden, the story goes that during Midsummer girls and young women are meant to pick seven different flowers from seven different fields and place them under their pillows. Things all being well, they will then dream of their future husbands. Apparently the night before Midsummer’s day is a “magical time for love”.

We have decided that it might also be a magical time for herb harvesting. So we are setting out to collect 7 different herbs from 7 different fields (or more!) in Hackney to create our very own Midsummer tea blend.

So we are looking for individuals, groups or community gardens who would like to take part and donate some herbs into our Midsummer pot. We’ll celebrate the harvest at our summer social on 25th June 6 – 9pm at the Bee Garden in Dalston where we will be sampling the magical blend.

If you would like to take part please get in touch with us via email hackneyherbal@gmail.com and we can give you some more information.

You can also join our next Midummer-themed herbal tea workshop on 6th July. Book your tickets here

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Top 3 herbs to forage in spring

Now the sun has returned it’s a great time to get outdoors and find some free herbal treats in the wild. Here are a few of our favourite spring time herbs.

  1. JUICE

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Cleavers (sticky weed, sticky willy, goose grass) Galium aparine

Abundant at this time of year and recognisable by its sticky character cleavers are best enjoyed in their fresh state. Add them to your water bottle to cold infuse or even better wiz them up in a blender for a juice that will help your lymphatic system,  aiding your body with the removal of toxins.

2. EAT

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Wild garlic (ramsons) Allium ursinum

We like picking the leaves of these and adding them to salads or sandwiches for a nice hearty garlic kick. It’s packed with allicin which is antibacterial and antimicrobial, perfect for beating off those pre-spring colds.

3. BREW or STEW

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Stinging nettle Urtica dioica

Sometimes a bit tricky to pick if you haven’t come prepared with gloves but well worth  the stings. Bursting with vitamins A & C, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium nettle makes for an excellent brew. Try it as a herbal infusion or add it into soups and stews (which takes away the sting) for an iron rich boost.

 

Remember to always carefully identify wild plants before consumption using a foraging guide if you are a beginner. Also be mindful of foraging regulations in your area and never dig up a plant from its local habitat without permission. More useful tips here.

Join our team!

We are looking for 2 herbal trainees to join our team at Hackney Herbal. The role involves assisting us with the growing and harvesting of herbs, running of herbal workshops and general admin of the project. You will work alongside our team and assist with different parts of the project when it’s needed. As part of the traineeship you will receive training in horticulture – both theory and hands on practice. This is a great experience for someone who wants to gain experience of working in the community / urban food growing sector and gain skills relating to setting up and running a social enterprise.

Key responsibilities

  • Helping to maintain our herb growing sites
  • Harvesting herbs for our herbal tea blends
  • Assisting with planning and developing herbal workshops
  • Opportunity to deliver community workshops

Key benefits

  • Experience working on a community project
  • Hands-on horticultural training
  • Access to training and networking events
  • Support, mentoring and guidance
  • The chance to be part of a young, dynamic and exciting social enterprise

Requirements

  • Some experience of horticulture / community work is desirable but not essential
  • A passion to learn and be part of a community growing project
  • Commit to 1-2 days a week (flexible working schedule) from April – October 2016

Deadline to apply is 6pm on 4th April and we hope to have the new trainees starting by end of April 2016.

If you are interested in applying please email us to request a full application pack. nat@cordwainersgrow.org.ukIMG_4913