Dandelion The French name (pis-en-lit) is the best clue to its usefulness in the home-grown medicine chest: the leaves are a strong, safe and very effective diuretic, for anyone suffering from water retention. The bitterness aids digestion and acts also as a liver tonic. In some country areas, the milky sap that oozes out when you pick a leaf is still used to banish warts. The easiest way to use dandelion leaf is raw, in a salad. The common weedy ones are fine to eat, now, while they are young. But if you are in the extraordinary position of having no dandelions pushing up in your flower beds, you can grow the fancy French variety ‘Pissenlit a Coeur plein’ (Suffolk Herbs £1).
Nettle Stinging nettle is packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, and has almost twice as much iron in it as spinach, so it’s not surprising that it makes a brilliant spring tonic. We perhaps are not so keen now on flailing around in nettle beds to ease rheumatism. The sting inflames and warms and that process eases the ache in rheumaticky joints.
The simplest way to prepare nettle is in a soup and now is a great time to make it, before the leaves get dark and tough. The recipe I use is from Cooking Weeds by Vivien Weise. You need 500g potatoes peeled and cubed, 2 chopped onions, some butter, 1 litre good stock, 100g stinging nettle leaves stripped from the stems, 2tsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, 200ml double cream, 50g roasted, flaked almonds, 1 grated carrot. Fry the potatoes and onions until translucent. Add the stock and simmer for 10 mins. Add the nettle leaves and simmer for another 10 mins. Liquidise and add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Reheat and stir in half the cream. Serve with the rest of the cream, the almonds and the carrot ready to garnish the soup.
Chickweed This is a very common annual weed, sprouting now on disturbed ground with pale green leaves. The starry white flowers come later. It’s the best of all plants, says Robbins, for treating itchy or inflamed skin. The simplest way to use it is as a poultice. You can pick a bunch of the stuff, wring it slightly to release the sap, then bind the poultice to whatever part of the skin needs it. If you suffer from mild eczema or dermatitis, try it. It won’t be hard to find, as each plant carries about 15,000 seeds and they germinate in almost every month of the year.
- Dandelion: The Healing Weed (wildflowerbotanicals.wordpress.com)
- Nettle Brew! (or how to make free garden fertiliser) (busyellebee.wordpress.com)
- 18 Lesson Herbal Medicine Correspondence Course (gailfaithedwards.wordpress.com)