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Foraging

Spring Greens!

Eating seasonally is one of my favourite ways of feeling more aligned with earth’s cycles and come Spring I really start craving fresher, zingier and lighter meals with lots and lots of greens. And just as if Nature intended, our gardens and woodlands are bursting full of Spring greens, that nourish and cleanse our bodies after a heavy winter.

After consciously gardening to keep and enjoy wild edibles over the years, there has been plenty coming up over the past few weeks. They have filled our teapot and topped most of our dishes and both my mind and body are starting to feel lighter and clearer after the long Winter months.

One of our favourite ways to enjoy wild greens is in a pesto. It is simple, quick and delicious. We use it to dress salads, vegetables, pasta and potatoes. We don’t follow a recipe and embrace it varying each time but start by popping a big handful of greens into a blender along with a squeeze of lemon, some seeds (or nuts) a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and I often add a handful of peas to give a nice freshness and sweetness.

We also add chopped greens to the top of almost any dish, or into soups, salads and pasta dishes.

Some are wonderful enjoyed in a fresh spring tea or cold water infusion. My favourite for this are Cleavers and the Nettles.

As with everything, once you get your eye in, identifying plants becomes almost second nature but it takes time to learn, we are always cautious, avoiding anything unless we are sure – there are poisonous lookalikes out there so cross reference, learn from someone and take your time – it is worth it. We still enjoy adding a few extra plants to our repertoire each year.


Here are just a few greens I use on a regular basis as they are local and abundant to me. They are often an important nectar source in early Spring so we only ever take a small proportion of what is growing leaving lots for the wildlife who depend on them. There are lots of other tasty greens not listed here and getting to know those in your garden is a good place to begin.

Foraging, Trees

Willow

I feel very lucky to have received some wonderful books for my birthday this year, one being ‘Walking with Trees’ by Glennie Kindred (one of my favourite authors and nature connectors).

It has inspired me to form an even deeper connection with some of our lovely native and naturalised trees in Britain and I thought it might be nice to share some of my journeying here, starting with Willow a beloved tree all year round, but particularly special in Spring.


Willows are one of the first trees to grow in Spring, symbolising regeneration, new beginnings and letting go of the old.

There are over 400 species of willow worldwide but the most common to Britain are White Willow, Goat Willow, Crack Willow and Common Osiers or basket willow.

The trees are dioecious meaning they are either male or female, with the striking ‘Pussy Willow’ catkins growing on male Goat willows before the leaves grow. The female flowers develop with the leaves later in the Spring. Both the flowers and leaves are very important nectar and food source for many insects throughout the year.

It is thought that the the words ‘Wicca’ and ‘Witch’ were derived from the word ‘Willow’ and the tree has many ancient associations with healing, rituals and magic.

Traditionally Willow has been used as a pain relief, with the bark containing salicin, from which Aspirin was derived in 1899.

I love using Willow in any rituals connected with the Moon, releasing stuck emotions, old energy, welcoming the new, connecting with our intuition, welcoming Spring, emotional healing and lifting the spirits.

I burn both the bark and leaves, hang up bunches of Willow leaves and collect a few stems in early Spring to put in water and watch the catkins open.

Traditionally willow leaf infusions have been used for sore throats, toothe ache and helping to eliminate toxins from the body. The bark is used in treatments for rheumatism, muscle aches and stiffness and indigestion.


Willow is a wonderful tree to get to know more, growing near water she always offers a seat of peace beneath her branches to soften and watch the world go by. I look forward to walking beside her during the months ahead and sharing some more about her magic!

Botanicals

Bay

Just like the other aromatic herbs that we have covered in our herb explorations so far, Bay (Laurus nobilis) not only enhances the flavour of our dishes but helps us to digest them. Culinary herbs, such as Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and Bay all have properties that help stimulate our digestion and helps calm the stomach, easing gas and cramps. These herbs, including Bay also help to ease symptoms of coughs and colds.

Bay leaves have been used therapeutically for thousands of years. Like Lavender, Bay leaves contain Linalool a compound with relaxing properties when inhaled. Bay is also an antirheumatic and can help ease arthritic aches and pains.

Bay is associated with the Sun. Symbolically it represents triumph and victory. Thought to arise from Greek mythology, the laurel wreath, made of Bay leaves has long been used to crown successors from sports events to graduates. The term ‘laureato’ in Italian, referring to a student that has graduated. The evergreen is also thought to protect the home.


Ways to enjoy Bay

  1. Like the other culinary herbs, fresh or dried Bay leaves can be added to many dishes to enhance the flavour and help improve digestion.
  2. Steep a couple of Bay leaves in boiling water to enjoy its soothing properties. Leave for 10 minutes and enjoy as a tea.
  3. Burning dried Bay leaves can help calm the mind and body.
  4. Make a decoction of Bay leaves by gently boiling a handful in water for around 30 minutes and then add the water into a bath to help arthritic pain. Alternatively heat leaves gently in an oil such as sunflower to infuse and once cool enough, rub into sore muscles.

We always love to hear your favourite uses for herbs too, please feel free to leave us a comment.

When working with any plants it is important to do your own research to ensure they work for you. Bay is not recommended during pregnancy.

Wellbeing, Wheel of the Year

Imbolc

Traditionally celebrated over 1st and 2nd of February in the Northern Hemisphere, Imbolc marks the earliest signs of Spring and falls midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. At this time, the earth is beginning to awaken from Winter’s slumber. Light is increasing, encouraging changes in the behaviour of our animal friends. Most growth is still occurring in the darkness of the Earth’s belly but some little pioneer plants bloom first, signalling the quickening of the year.

Imbolc is a period of transition. The inward focus of the Winter months making way to a more external focus of growth once again. A tender time where we tentatively begin looking outwards towards the coming months. It can feel challenging or overwhelming particularly if we are feeling under nourished.

This can be a good time to assess where we require more rest or support. To clear space in our homes and lives to make way for what’s to come. And to reflect on the things that light us up, restore our energy and tend to our ground ready to welcome the tender new shoots of Spring.

For guided Mindfulness practices and journal prompts inspired by the season of Imbolc, you can download our Imbolc Wellbeing Guide now.

Botanicals

Sage

Onto another aromatic herb native to the Mediterranean, and now commonly grown in the garden; common Sage. The name of this plant’s genus ‘Salvia’ comes from the Latin ‘Salvare’ meaning ‘to save, or to heal.’ The plant has long been used medicinally with examples from Ancient Greece and Rome and throughout the Middle Ages where it was commonly grown around monasteries for its healing properties.

Even its culinary uses; teaming sage with rich foods (in particular meats) hint at its medicinal properties. Helping the digestion of rich foods, Sage is a tonic for the liver and aids with indigestion, bloating and flatulence.

Rich with antioxidants, the anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties of a Sage tea or gargle can be soothing for sore gums, mouth ulcers and sore throats. Its antibacterial properties have been shown to be effective at reducing plaque build up too. Teamed with Rosemary and/or Thyme they can be supportive allies for coughs and colds and make a clearing steam for airways.

Modern research has found Sage to be stimulating for cognitive function too. Compounds within common Sage have been shown to inhibit enzymes that breakdown neurotransmitters in the brain and research is ongoing into the support this may provide for individuals with Alzheimer’s.

Traditionally sage has been used to help alleviate some menopausal symptoms such as excess sweating and hot flushes.


Ways to enjoy Sage

  1. As a culinary herb Sage can be added to meals to support the digestion of rich foods.
  2. Sage tea is an easy way to enjoy its many benefits. Steep a teaspoon of dried Sage or a few fresh leaves in boiling water, cover and enjoy after around 10 minutes. Team with Rosemary for memory and Thyme for soothing sore throats.
  3. Cooled tea can be used as a gargle for sore throats, mouth ulcers or gum problems. You may also wish to add a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar into your gargle too for extra support. A fresh leaf can also be rubbed directly onto a sore tooth or gum.
  4. Dried Sage is an excellent herb to burn for its cleansing properties. Using either single leaves in a fireproof dish or combing the leaves into a stick, burning Sage has long been a popular method for receiving its antimicrobial benefits.

We always love to hear your favourite uses for herbs too, please feel free to leave us a comment.

When working with any plants it is important to do your own research to ensure they work for you. Sage is not recommended during pregnancy or for individuals with epilepsy. It is also toxic in very high doses.

Botanicals

Rosemary

As another warming evergreen, Rosemary is a wonderful Winter ally and complements Thyme extremely well. Both of these herbs bring great benefits to our health, as well as attracting wildlife to our garden during Spring and Summer months.

The name Rosemary is derived from the Latin – Ros marinus meaning ‘dew of the sea‘ as it tends to grow in close proximity to the sea in its native area of the Mediterranean.

Rosemary is a circulatory stimulant that increases blood flow to the brain. It has long been recognised for its positive impact on memory and cognition. Various research has demonstrated that smelling Rosemary improves memory and performance in mental arithmetic.

The stimulating qualities also benefit the hair and scalp, increasing hair growth and shine and its wealth of antioxidants support skin, heart and joint health.

As a nervine, Rosemary can help ease tension in the stomach and stress related headaches, as well as supporting mental fatigue, stress and depression. In one study, workers who began drinking Rosemary tea regularly, reported feeling significantly less burned out compared with colleagues who didn’t drink the tea.


Ways to enjoy Rosemary

  • Rosemary adds a delicious touch to meals – we especially love it with roasted potatoes and a vegetable stew.
  • Rosemary tea is a simple way to enjoy its benefits. Steep a few stems in boiling water. It can be drunk alone or combined with Thyme for extra uplifting support especially for colds and respiratory illnesses.
  • Inhaling the steam of Rosemary can be both uplifting and energising and help soothe tension headaches.
  • Rosemary makes a wonderful hair rinse. You can either steep the Rosemary in boiling water and use cooled for a final rinse or infuse the Rosemary in apple cider vinegar for a few weeks, strain and dilute for an extra nourishing hair rinse.
  • Rosemary makes a warming joint rub, when infused in a nourishing oil and rubbed into aching joints and muscles.
  • Rosemary has long been used as an incense, it has a beautiful aroma and can be burned for protection, cleansing a space or in remembrance of a loved one.

When working with any plants it is important to do your own research to ensure they work for you. Rosemary is not recommended during pregnancy above culinary use and is not recommended for use when taking certain medications.

Botanicals

Thyme for tea

The Winter months can be a good time to really reconnect with some of our evergreen aromatic garden herbs. This month I have found myself particularly drawn to using Thyme, so thought it would be nice to begin a herbal journey focusing on it.

Thyme is thought to derive its name from the Greek words ‘thymos’ meaning strong and ‘thyein’ meaning to make a burnt offering, highlighting its ancient use as an incense.

Thyme is rich in the active ingredient ‘thymol’ which has powerful antiseptic properties. So much so, the compound has been isolated and used in high doses in a range of commercial products including medical disinfectants.

Thyme is a warming and dry herb that has long been used to help respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, asthma and mouth conditions such as gum disease. Its astringent and decongestant properties support the clearing of excess mucous from the body.

It is also celebrated for its support of the digestive system, helping with indigestion, diarrhoea, gas and calming the stomach, particularly symptoms of nervous tension in the gut.

As a nervine, Thyme has been used to help support physical and mental exhaustion, relieve tension, anxiety and depression and externally this warming herb can offer relief for joint and muscle pain, cleaning and wound healing.

How I like to enjoy Thyme currently:


  1. My favourite way to enjoy Thyme is simply in a tea. Steeping a few stems in boiling water for around 10 minutes, I enjoy drinking thyme solo, or mixed with other herbs or a spoon of honey. You can also gargle with this tea when you have a sore throat.
  2. Thyme can also be effective when used for steam inhalation to clear airways and uplift our senses. Add thyme either solo or with other herbs to a bowl of boiling water. Allow to steep under a towel for 10 minutes. Then begin to gently breath in the steam with your head under the towel for up to 10 minutes.
  3. I love adding Thyme to a range of dishes including tomato sauces, to roasted vegetables and soups and stews.
  4. One of Thyme’s oldest uses is as an incense. It can be thrown into a fire, popped on top of a wood burner or left to dry and then burned to obtain the healing smoke. I like to add it in to smoulder sticks. My recent Winter Allies Smoulder Stick was woven with thyme and other evergreens.
  5. The other way I have used Thyme recently is in a multipurpose cleaner, which is simply a selection of evergreens infused in white vinegar, left for 2 weeks and then strained and diluted 1:1 with distilled water.


We would love to hear the ways in which you enjoy using Thyme. As with all plants it is always important to do your own research. Thyme and certain other herbs are not recommended for use in pregnancy.

Wellbeing

Earthing

Earthing or grounding refers to making bodily contact with the earth through walking bare foot or sitting on the ground.

A recent review highlights the impact of earthing on our health concluding that ‘bodily contact with the Earth’s natural electrical charge stabilizes the physiology at the deepest levels, reduces inflammation, pain and stress, improves blood flow, energy and sleep and generates greater wellbeing.’

Further research also demonstrates a reduction in inflammation and pain in the bodies of individuals who implement earthing techniques alongside changes in the wound healing process and the immune response.

Now I have to say, I love being barefoot at the best of times, feeling the sand in between my toes on the beach, or the soft grass in my garden. During Spring and Summer there are lots of opportunities to do so quite easily, without looking too odd.

In Midwinter however it isn’t so common to see someone walking through a woodland without shoes on.  During our recent Winter Solstice walk through our favourite woodland I felt the urge to free my feet and get them on the ground.

After doing so, I immediately felt more awake. Pulled straight into the present moment, aware of the sensations under my feet (albeit mainly cold) noticing my every step. Energised, I made a commitment to get my feet on the ground more often during the Winter months and I certainly haven’t regretted it so far.

Is it cold? Well yes it is, but I am wrapped up and have a hot drink afterwards so it is certainly manageable. Other alternatives to connect with nature if you don’t fancy going barefoot during the Winter are resting your hands on trees as you walk past them, doing some gardening or having a sea salt bath.

Do you practice earthing? How does it impact you?