Last Sunday, I went foraging in the lush wild meadow that runs along the side of Lough Atalia, the small lake that runs to the sea in Galway harbour. It was a stunning day, I felt almost light headed with the scent of wild flowers, fresh running water and the earth warmed by the heat of the midday sun.
Two swans followed me for a while and the meadow hummed with the sound of happy bees drinking nectar. A ladybird landed near me on a patch of clover and small wild birds called and flew overhead.
Everywhere I looked, I was overwhelmed by the incredible bounty of nature, I felt like how a child must feel in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I didn’t know where to start, so many colours, scents, textures called to me. My attention was snagged by the most magnificent bush of Wild Roses and braving the thorns, I gathered some petals to make Rosewater, a recipe which I will include in my next post.
The flowers were as big as a child’s hand and the petals as soft as pure silk and the scent, oh my word, the scent, if only I could breathe in that scent all of my days…
The heart of the meadow was a sea of colour composed of every shade of red and pink and green and all the colours in between. Red Clover was all around me, as far as the eye could see. I gathered several stems and the flower heads.
I will be using Red Clover to make a healing tea, cream, salve, syrup…So many things, it is such a remarkable herb.
There was also White Clover, not as profuse and much more delicate then its red cousin but also beautiful. It has a subtle sweet taste that makes for a lovely syrup for use in a cordial.
Its late in the year for Dandelion but I found some clumps in the more shady areas of the meadow and harvested the young leaves for smoothies, salads and the flowers to make honey. Once autumn is here, I’m going to dig up as many dandelion roots as possible for making coffee.
I found Plantain along the waters edge, its distinctive narrow leaves and long seed laden heads nodding in the breeze coming off the lake. I have started a mason jar infusion of Plantain and Oil for healing creams but Plantain has so many other uses as well. I will talk more about this next week.
I was lucky to come across a patch of Horsetail, which often grows near water and has been around since the time of the Dinosaurs. It has many uses but one of its most well known is its wonderful ability to stimulate hair growth. A simple hair rinse can be made by washing the stems of horsetail to get rid of any soil or insects, place in a large glass bowl and pour boiling water over the plant. Leave overnight,compost the stems and then after washing your hair, pour over your head and dry hair as usual.
Meadowsweet otherwise known as the Queen of the Meadow was scattered here and there. I made a syrup from the flowers to use to create a sorbet or simply to pour over ice cream or pancakes as a delicious treat.
One of my most favourite wild flower are Daisies. They can be found everywhere, in all shapes and sizes and colours but their purity and innocence instantly transport me back to my childhood and memories of making daisy chains as crowns and garlands. Daisies make a lovely addition to any homemade skin creams.
I found several sprays of Milk Thistle and am currently drying these and some of the other herbs I gathered for use. I am looking forward to finding ways to use Milk Thistle to heal both myself and those I care for.
The next herb I came across was Yarrow, one of the most ancient and sacred of all plants in the lore of herbs, a plant with many fascinating abilities. I have dried the small amount I found and will be keeping a keen eye out for more to stock up before the winter.
Another lovely herb I across was Self Heal, a plant long used for healing wounds and infections, as well as sore throats.
I spent three wondrous hours beside the lake and by the time I returned home, I was suntanned and windswept, all my cobwebs blown away. I laid my herbs out in the sun on my balcony to dry and for any insects to flee.
In the end, I found over thirteen different herbs in the space of an afternoon in just one of the meadows on the banks of Lough Atalia. I was awed by how only a short walk from my apartment in Galway city, I was able to find so many remarkable healing plants. I think, living in a city, many people forget to look, to seek out the wilderness that grows up from between the cracks and finds itself a home in even the most starkly urban of places.
It is truly amazing what you can find and all this goodness, beauty and healing is free. I love to go foraging but always remember to only take what you need and to give thanks for its blessings.
Its late and I grow weary but let me finish this feast of the senses with all things Honeysuckle.
I will leave you with two divine recipes I found online using this most exotic flower with its otherworldly nectar and golden blossoms.
Honeysuckle Ice Cream
From the website: https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/
- 1 and a half cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups honeysuckle blossoms (this is approximate)
- seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- Put the cream, milk and sugar into a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the honeysuckle flowers into the pan and and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off the heat and let the mixture come to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, strain the blossoms out and add the vanilla bean seeds. Mix well to break apart any clumped seeds.
- Process the cold mixture in your ice cream machine according to its directions.
- Put the soft ice cream in the freezer to firm up before serving.
5 cups cool water
4 cups honeysuckle blossoms, tightly packed but not smashed
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Few drops lemon juice
Dusting of cinnamon
Add cool tap water to flowers. Place in a glass bowl and leave overnight.
The next day, make a simple syrup by heating sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over low heat until the mixture is clear, then boiling it for a minute or so, until the syrup begins to appear lustrous and slightly thick.
Remove from heat and add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent the sugar from recrystallizing. Cool the syrup.
Strain the honeysuckles, gently pressing the blossoms so as not to waste any of your efforts.
Combine the honeysuckle and the simple syrup and add just the merest dusting of ground cinnamon — a hint will enhance the honeysuckle flavor; even a bit more will overpower it.
Put the mix in a glass baking dish, let it freeze a little, stir and smash with a fork. Wait another couple of hours and do the same thing until it’s almost frozen through, then put it all in a blender. It needs to be taken out of the freezer a few minutes before you serve.
Bon Appetit! 🙂