Spring has arrived after one of the longest winters that I can remember. It is joyous to be able to walk along the lane and around our field and find so many herbs that one can pick and eat just as our forefathers did.
Here’s fine rosemary, sage and thyme. Come, buy my Ground Ivy. Here’s featherfew, gilly flowers and rue. Come buy my knotted marjoram , too! Roxburghe Ballads ( 1740-1804)
In mediaeval times Ground Ivy was used to treat fevers and coughs . Today the leaves are great with mushrooms or for making a lovely spring tisane.
Primrose was the first herb to appear this year in the garden.
As the weather had been so cold and grey it was wonderful to see these cheerful flowers. The young leaves can be eaten as a salad or boiled as a pot herb. Traditionally the flowers were ground with rice, almonds, honey and saffron to form a ‘Primrose pottage’.
When I was a child Cowslips were picked to make a wine. Nowadays, due to the fact that this herb has become rare in the wild, this is no longer possible. Medicinally they were traditionally used as a sedative.
Nettles on the other hand are profuse in my garden, so here is a delicious recipe,
Nettle soup 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped 1 clove of garlic, 2 potatoes, peeled and sliced. 2 large handfuls ( do wear gloves) of young nettle heads. 1 Litre of vegetable or chicken stock. Olive oil, salt and pepper, Cream can be added prior to serving if you wish, but it is perfectly good without.
In a large saucepan add a little olive oil, the chopped onion, garlic and potatoes and gently fry for 3-4 minutes. Wash and trim the nettles, add to the pan, add the stock. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat, simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Liquidise and add the seasoning. Serve with a dash of cream if desired .
Wild Garlic is also in profusion. Normally it would be in full flower if not going over by now, this year it is still in the green.
The leaves are great wilted in butter and served with mash potato or added to soups or stews for flavouring.
All photographs are © Jekka McVicar 2013