The Orange Tip

mattcollinsgarden.co.uk

Category: shed

Meadowsweet Tea

A month or so ago I spotted a patch of meadowsweet that had crept up unnoticed at the back end of the top meadow. It must have been growing there for some while as the scattered stalks were well into flowering. It’s not a plant I see in this garden very often, other than the cultivated variety we have in the long border (Filipendula rubra), as the soil conditions are generally too dry and free draining. However, there is one area in that top meadow that was once the site of a small pond. Having been dug up and re-landscaped some time before I started at the garden, you wouldn’t know it had ever been there, save for the particular plant species that show up from time to time. Among these have been the usual indicators of damp ground; docs, nettles, various lamium and now the newest arrival, meadowsweet.

Meadowsweet thrives in the damp and fertile areas of British grassland. It’s a Summer fixture up and down the West-Welsh lanes that surround the family home in the Towy valley, which is the ideal perma-sodden ground it loves. If you crush one of the flower heads in your fingers there comes a distinctive sweet smell followed by an unmistakeable waft of antiseptic – the reason for its notoriety as ‘one of the most sacred of the druid’s herbs’. In fact it’s herbal and medicinal uses are widely listed, and great in number. According to Julie and Matthew Seal, co-authors of the informative and super-handy, ‘Hedgerow Medicine’, meadowsweet helps sooth arthritis and rheumatism, dispel uric and oxalic acid, is used to tackle gout, mouth ulcers and bleeding gums and aids pain relief, forming the synthesised basis for aspirin. Also listed in the book are traditional methods of using the herb, including a pretty simple tea intended to settle the stomach and help you feel ‘Summer’s heat and brightness return’. Sounded pretty hippy to me but I did want to see what it tasted like.

The process of converting the plant into tea is really just drying, which is simple enough, but does take quite a long time. I cut a bunch from the meadow, quite close to the ground so as to keep the longish stalks, cleaned away any dirt and dead leaves, and hung them with an elastic band in the shed. I’ve learned through experience that an elastic band is always more favourable than string when hanging plants to dry. As the moisture departs, the stems often shrink, slipping loose from the tie and dropping over the floor.

Once the bunch has had a long while drying -mine were at least a month- they can be cut down and then crumbled (all parts, minus the stems) into a container.

Tea dried and prepared, I brewed a spoon-full through a strainer and enjoyed a mug at home. It’s not too bad at all. The flavour is distinct and you can definitely taste the Summer. It does feel like it ought to be doing you some good too. Certainly no bleeding gums anyhow, Summer’s heat and brightness, possibly..

Some for Drying

Lavender ‘Beechwood Blue’

British Summer

Andy and the Tajine

Old friend Andy came down to the garden to help with the bulk mulching I’ve been slipping behind on. He brought with him a well-loaded Moroccan tajine for what became a pretty great lunch to grace the shed. Cheers Andy. We had it sat on the stove with a slow-burn fire for most of the morning.

Rainy Shed Day

It’s been a heavy couple of months with very little space to take time away from the garden. I was therefore grateful in numerous ways for an unexpected day’s solid rain from morning to evening a couple of weeks ago. With some elm logs burning slowly in the stove for tea and warmth I settled into enjoying a slower pace for the day.

Seed Sorting in the Shed

Every year around this time the seeds arrive for the coming year. A large box from trusty Sarah Raven will arrive containing cut flowers of annuals and bi-annuals, veg and herb seeds all to be sown between now (February) and August. This year, although trying my hardest to cut down, the packet count was… well, far beyond sensible anyway. Last year I ordered much less but was still pushed to get even 70% of them out into the beds to flower. However, as with my approach for most things in the garden this year, I’m feeling ambitious, and am keen to grow as much variety as possible.

Tea

20120203-182843.jpg

Nothing like a new old tea pot

New Perches

With the shed finally cleared, cleaned and woodstove-installed, I have reached the settled feeling I’ve been after from the start. It took some time to establish the best channel and collect the appropriate piping, and after a day’s grind under an encouraging clear sky, I now have a fire with which to heat, cook and ‘contemplate’. Wasted little time in putting it to use too.

To celebrate, I thought it fitting to spread the air of belonging to my tireless comrades in residence and construct a perch under the log store for the chickens. Man needs a fire, chicken needs a perch.