Recipes using spring tonic herbs

As promised, I had a look through some herbals and on the internet for some recipes, both old and new, using the traditional spring tonic herbs I mentioned in my last post. Of course, as it’s Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day today.. I couldn’t resist starting with a Finnish Nettle Pancake recipe I found on the net!

Continuing on with Nettle, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has some delicious Nettle recipes on the Guardian website. For more traditional recipes, I found recipes for Nettle Pudding and Nettle Beer in Mrs. Grieve’s Herbal (orginally published in 1931). Scroll down about half way for the recipe section.

For a modern culinary take on Dandelion leaf, check out this Huffington Post page with lots of delicious recipe suggestions! Mrs. Grieve mentions Dandelion coffee (made from the dried and roasted root), wine (made from the flowers) and beer in her herbal. For those brewers amongst you, The Herbarium blog has a good article on herbal beers.

Chickweed can be eaten in a spring salad, but my favourite recipe idea is to make it into a pesto – yum!

Last but not least (!), cleavers is a favourite spring tonic of mine. If you don’t have a juicer, I find the easiest way to enjoy this plant is to take a big clump of it, rinse it well, bruise it slightly and then infuse it in cold water over night. In the morning you can strain off the liquid and drink it. It tastes a little like cucumber to me – very refreshing! The Physicians of Myddfai, who were a family of physicians the Middle Ages, held that, “The juice of the plant taken in spring and summer as the patient’s only drink ‘will completely destroy eruptive poisons in the blood and humours’.” “The whole herb, leaves, blossoms and seeds should be pounded together well, put in an unglazed earthenware vessel without pressing the plant material down, covered with spring water and left overnight. The infusion is to be taken fresh as the only drink for 9 weeks.” (Tobyn, G. et al., 2011; The Western Herbal Tradition: 2000 years of medicinal plant knowledge. London: Elsevier Ltd.) During the time when the Physicians of Myddfai were practicing medicine, it was thought that “poisons in the blood and humours” were the cause of all manner of ill-health, including various skin conditions. Today, medical herbalists may use an extract of cleavers to help patients with various conditions involving the skin and the lymphatic system.

Oh, and to continue the coffee theme, Mrs. Grieves mentions that the seeds were also used to make a coffee substitute!

Last but not least, Julie and Matthew Bruton-Seal have a recipe for ‘Garden Weed Tincture’ in their fabulous book, “Hedgerow Medicine“, which combines Cleavers, Dandelion, Nettle tops, Curled Dock roots and Burdock roots all in one tincture, made by macerating the ingredients in vodka for a month. It is described quite nicely in this blog.