As I press the delicate flower into place and tuck neatly inside my heavy old book, I contemplate when my journey with plants began. I have not long started studying herbal medicine; however, my curiosity began many years ago when I took on my first garden (or was it as a child popping rose buds into water to make perfume?). With alchemy such as a minuscule seed becoming a delicious ingredient for supper or plants such as aloe vera that constantly produce babies for potting on – what is not to love?
My favourite time of year has always been springtime when we plant seeds and wait for something to happen. When the first tiny green head appears, it’s like magic. I once grew an avocado plant from the seed of my lunch. Sadly, my elation was short-lived as I was continually told I would never get any fruit. The more I learn, the more there is to learn.
I don’t have a garden just now; instead, I wonder who are these hedgerow members and what are their uses? I am currently volunteering at WWOOF host Monkton Wyld Court in Dorset, which has a wide range of medicinal plants growing in their beautiful walled Victorian garden and grounds. While I hope one day to become a herbalist, my investigations are currently more personal as I seek to meet them all one by one.
Our healing history is complicated and long, but a common denominator remains – the power of plants. Even in ancient Egypt, we have found many herbs and oils within their tomb treasures.
With so much to learn, where do we start? Is it playing with a snapdragon’s gaping fangs or investigating infusions, decoctions, tinctures, and teas? Or maybe we need to be allowing ourselves the time to smell the roses. One of the reasons I love herbs is the aromas – peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, lemon verbena, lavender, pineapple sage, rosemary, and so much more.
I previously enjoyed growing a tea garden where I experimented with an assortment of flavours. While I may not have known the specific uses of the plants at the time, I enjoyed the exhilaration for my senses as I took the time to drink tea from an eccentric china teapot and savour my hard-earned harvest.
Spring brings one of my favourite cooking ingredients, wild garlic. Packed full of goodness, and the flowers also look beautiful in a seasonal salad. While gardeners can have challenges with the hungry gap, foraging isn’t as restricted. Stinging nettles are a treat. Hiding behind their prickly exterior is a highly nutritious and delicious green for those brave enough to come find.
It goes without saying, never eat anything that you’re not sure of. Instead, use the excuse to see a qualified herbalist, learn about off the shelf remedies, join a local foraging event or, come visit one of our many WWOOF hosts as we seek to expand our knowledge about plants and their uses.
With Spring Equinox not far around the corner, I watch the welcome daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses, and primroses popping up to bring promise for the coming season. As I open my pressed flower book my lucky four-leaf clover sits proudly in chapter one, I wonder who will be next?
Written by: Louise Thompson
Photo credits: Louise Thompson