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Discussion in 'Herbs and Wildflowers' started by Marley Farley, Feb 17, 2019.

  1. Marley Farley

    Marley Farley Affable Admin! Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Grandmother Gardener Councillor Homemaker
    Under the Edge Zone 8b
    Some of the most delicious ingredients are free, and just a country walk away – or even closer.
    Here’s our pick of some of the most useful and widespread herbs hiding in hedgerows across Britain.


    1. Wild garlic (Allium ursinum)
    April – June

    During these months, you’re likely to be knocked out by the pungent aroma of huge swathes of wild garlic, or ‘Ramsons’, carpeting woodlands and shaded hedgerows across the UK.

    Their leaves taste like a milder version of conventional garlic, making them great for soups, stews, or wilted in butter and served alongside mashed potato. Alternatively, leave some rolled up leaves in a bottle of olive oil for a few weeks for a delicious garlic marinade. They also make an excellent pesto and taste great slapped straight onto a cheese sandwich on a woodland walk!


    2. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
    June – October

    Does anyone else remember grabbing and eating a handful of these aniseed-scented, thread-like leaves as a child on a hot summer’s day?

    Well, it turns out this could have been quite dangerous: fennel is one of a number of plants that produce toxic, skin-blistering chemicals in strong sunlight. However, there’s nothing to stop you from eating the leaves and seeds when cooked – just make sure you gather them wearing gloves! The seeds are great in curries, and the leaves make a delicious addition to fish dishes.


    3. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
    March - May

    The Romans have a lot to answer for – they’re the ones who introduced stinging nettles to the UK. The bane of every country walk (traditionally known as ‘Devil’s Leaf’ in Somerset), they lose their sting when cooked, and the young shoots make a delicious addition to soup, herbal tea, and even haggis! Award-winning herb grower Jekka McVicar features a delicious recipe for nettle soup on her blog.


    4. Borage (Borago officinalis)
    May - September

    These delicate blue flowers were traditionally used as a kind of herbal pep-pill, taken as a hangover cure and an aphrodisiac. According to 17th Century diarist John Evelyn, it will “revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student.”

    Today, their light, fragrant flavour makes them an attractive addition to salads and summer drinks. Acclaimed edible flower grower Jan Billington features them in her ingenious recipe for Pimms jelly.


    5. Corn mint (Mentha arvensis)
    April – September

    Bearing a superficial resemblance to peppermint, the scent of this versatile hedgerow herb is somewhat sharper and less ‘minty’ – but don’t be fooled by the smell. It can be used exactly as if it were a garden mint, and is especially effective in savoury dishes like mint sauce or Indian mint chutney: Perfect for summer cooking!


    6. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)

    Their sheer abundance alone should be enough to qualify them for this list – but dandelions also make an excellent salad base. They can be served raw or cooked with a little butter like Spinach.

    They’re also very high in nutrients, to the extent that they were recommended to Brits during the Second World War to supplement rationing. Choose the young, tender leaves for extra delicacy.


    7. Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria)
    June – August

    This spinach-like member of the carrot family is still a common pot herb in Scandinavia. It was originally introduced to Britain by the Romans.

    Elder often appears in large patches, it fell out of cultivation due to its tendency to completely take over its hosts’ gardens – a trait which caused 16th-century botanist John Gerard to bemoan: “where it hath once taken roote, it will hardly be gotten out again.” So don’t take any back to plant in your garden!

    So - go forth and forage!

    Remember to gather in moderation, give all your herbs a wash before use and, above all, make sure you’ve got the right plant!

    If you're not sure, crushing and smelling the leaves will give you another clue to figuring out what species you're dealing with, or a good field identification guide will help you be absolutely sure.
    • Like Like x 5
    • BostonSeeds

      BostonSeeds Apprentice Gardener

      Oct 19, 2012
      Some more to get to know;
      1) Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) - you can use the leaves in salads
      2) Mallow, Common (Malva sylvestris) the flowers and leaves have lots of culinary and medicinal uses.
      3) Saxifrage, Meadow (Saxifraga granulata) was used to break up gall stones and kidney stones.
      4) Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) has many uses in traditional remedies. The roots were used to induce sneezing (no idea why you want to do this!) and root chewing was used to relieve toothache.
      5) Woundwort, Marsh (Stachys palustris) was used to dress wounds and ointments are used to relieve joint pain.

      Help our natural species and consider adding some to your beds or making a small wild garden for birds and bees.
      • Like Like x 2
      • Peas

        Peas Apprentice Gardener

        May 1, 2021
        Mature student
        Wild leek, very similar in taste to the wild garlic, but it is slightly sweeter. It has long thin leaves that are sightly 'v' shaped if cut transversely. Often found alongside the wild garlic.Screenshot_20210503_100028_com.android.chrome.jpg
        • Like Like x 1

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