Archive for July, 2011

Party loot!

Joolz and I went to a barbeque / picnic yesterday afternoon, deep in the countryside about 40 minutes drive outside Edinburgh.  Lovely in the summer and not too good in the deep winter snow we had for months this and last year.  Our friends rent a bungalow there with a big garden – the landlord is also landlord of substantial tracts of land there, so they have beautiful walks.  They have been there three years, not avid gardeners, and every year the local farmer comes round and clears out their veg patch (no veggies) and generally tidies up.  He’s due any day now again.

There, as we explored in the depths of the overgrown vegpatch (5 or 6 longish raised beds, as far as I could see) we found a humoungous amount of comfrey… and we don’t have any at all in our Edinburgh central gardinette!  2 Minutes, a spade and a fork later, and we were digging up a particularly nice clump, much to our friends’ delight – Julia doesn’t know what it is and ‘hates the stuff’ as it gets everywhere – and home it came with us.  We also rescued a rhubarb patch (hope it will take this early in the summer), and I managed to get rather a large amount of Cleavers without roots)  into a large plastic bag too – it may not have liked the plastic, but I didn’t fancy taking it home as outerwear 🙂

Walking in the woods behind their dwelling we followed a wet, marshy path which we discovered was inhabited by hundreds of tiny, tiny froglets bouncing all over the place.  Gorgeous little things.  Apparently they wander into the house when they are grown up and watch T.V. with Julia.  Amazing, the educational facilities available for reptiles these days! Becka, the labrador, doesn’t quite know what to do with them – if she ever notices them – such a gentle soul is she.

I’ve promised our friends comfrey ointment or cream from their vegpatch offerings 🙂

And… had some of the Orange gin yesterday evening – YUM!


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Tincture of Plantago lanceolata

Here it is, finally!  I’ve shaken lovingly every day and have been rewarded with an extraordinarily green / black tincture tasting of … plantain.

Several receptacles were commissioned to strain and decant the tincture:

plantago lanceolata tincture


plantago lanceolata tincture


First  strained through muslin into a mug, then into a larger bowl, then through muslin again into bottles.  400ml.

Plantago lanceolata tincture

As you can see, the remaining pulp of plantain leaves were absolutely dry and crumbly.  Menstruum has done its job extremely well in extracting the juice.

plantago lanceolata after tincture

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Peppermint hydrosol fini

It’s beautiful!  Fragrant, clear with a very faint green tinge, and a full jam jar’s worth.

It bubbled away for a good 3 – 4 hours (can’t quite remember what time I put it on) after having macerated for about the same length of time.  Masses of steam escaped from the home-made still, but I ended up with this 1lb jam jar’s worth of hydrosol.

Next hydrosol Lemon Verbena!

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Peppermint hydrosol

Fun, fun, fun again!  I’m making peppermint hydrosol using James Green’s recipe and instructions for home-made still (see book below).  First assemble your equipment:

One large pot (canning pot?) with a lid that you can turn upside down on the pot on which the steam will condense and flow down to a point (well, a handle in my pot’s case).  The red thing is a colander which you stand in the pot on top of the water and herbs to raise the bowl above the bubbles when the liquid is boiling.  Large bowl and scales for weighing peppermint and large knife and rolling pin for chopping and bruising.  Other than that all you need is a bag of ice and something to decant the finished liquid into.  Oh, and maybe a filter paper if you want to catch some of the precious oil (there won’t be much with a home-made still).

This is what the peppermint looks like as it’s macerating in the cold water.  Nothing too revelatory here:

After I’ve taken Joolz to the airport tonight I’m going to make the hydrosol 🙂

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Plantago lanceolata

The tincture is nearly ready to go – another 6 days.  I’ve been shaking twice a day and whispering loving words to it.  It’s an amazing plant – and everywhere I go now, even in central Edinburgh, I see it peeping up in lawns, at the side of pavements, by walls and pathways, all along the Waters of Leith and the canal, and especially up on the Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat, which is where I harvested mine.

I’ve been doing a little more research into its properties and characterictics – when I harvested it on Arthur’s Seat, all I could remember was Kym (Murden’s) refrain on my one day herbal medicine extravaganza with her about how amazing plantain is!  So ‘Thank You’ Kym 🙂

No wonder plantain, or ribwort, has been a major component of the home apothecary for so long – it has so many uses.  A selection:  it’s a soothing expectorant and antispasmodic for coughs and bronchial congestion, promotes lung tissue repair through the silica it contains, is mildly antiseptic and used in colds, tonsilitis and chest infections.  good for relieving catarrh and sinusitis, the mucilage soothes the cough reflex.  It’s good for bringing up old, stuck phlegm (too much information?) and for hot dry coughs.

For digestive problems it is equally soothing and antispasmodic, also astringent, so good for irritation and inflammation in stomach and bowels, also for gastritis, diarrhoea and colitis.  Apparently it’s also very good for haemorrhoids.  It’s astringent properties are used in excessive menstrual bleeding.

Its antiviral properties make it useful against the herpes virus and adenoviruses and excellent for urinary tract infections.

Plantain also… does this ever end?… is a refrigerant, which means that it reduces high fevers and clears toxins.

Externally it’s magic for insect bites and stings (due to its antihistamine properties) and for cuts, bruises and grazes.  Rub a few leaves to bruise them and put them straight on the spot.

It’s one of the few herbs that benefit from being dried at a slightly higher temperature than others, up to 40 – 50 degrees C, after bruising to release some of the fluid from the leaves.  I may try the oven… never dried herbs in the oven before, I have always used either the airing cupboard, the boiler cupboard, or just hung them up to dry from the ceiling.  I’m not sure any of those (certainly not the ceiling!) get to 50C.

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Orange Gin

So the Grand Marnier Domestiqué was adapted for Orange Gin, as there was not enough brandy… but the gin version is fantastic!  Highly recommended 🙂

Have now started a Plantain Tincture… a jar stuffed full of plantain leaves chopped very fine and filled up with a mixture of plum brandy (very high percentage alcohol) and regular cognac (50%).  Shake vigorously twice a day for 14 days and then strain the mixture through a very fine muslin and bottle the resulting tincture securely.  Plantain is very good as a vulnerary (wound healer) and you can use it externally for scratches, bites and grazes – lots of other uses internally as well, diluting a teaspoonful with water and drinking three times a day.

Next is going to be dandylion roots and leaves – leaves in tea or as a tincture as a diuretic and roots as a tincture for a mild laxative.

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