After a wet and blustery start to August it’s tempting to conjure up some druidic magic to try to save the remainder of the ‘summer’ before it’s swept away by our unforgiving weather. Thankfully you won’t need to sacrifice any virginal bride in a public ceremony, instead making and bottling some meadowsweet cordial should be enough to at least remind you of the summery good times!
Meadowsweet is a native plant of Ireland and widespread throughout Europe, western Asia and North America. In summer the frothy fragrant flower-heads add delicacy and lightness to the country side. The name of the plant doesn’t derive from it’s preference for growing in meadows but rather for adding flavour and sweetness to mead (alcohol made from fermented honey). In fact it is mainly found in marshy places, ditches and woodland verges.
Raise Your Spirits
The plant was regarded as a sacred herb by the Irish and was once believed to calm the rage and fevers of the legendary celtic hero Cuchulainn, as recalled in the old Gaelic name of the plant, Crios Conchulainn (Cuchlainn’s belt). In some parts of west county Galway, it is believed that if the fairies cursed you to feel miserable or depressed you should place some meadowsweet under your bed at night. The sweet smelling meadowsweet would raise your spirits by the following morning making you feel right as rain again!
The ‘Aspirin’ Plant
The health benefits of this plant are numerous. It is an excellent herb for treating stomach problems as well as joint aches and pains. It was also widely used to help relieve colds, fevers and sore throats and later became the key ingredient from which aspirin was synthesised.
For meadowsweet recipe, see below:
Meadowsweet Cordial Recipe:
- Three litres of water
- About 60 meadowsweet flowers
- 400-450 grammes of sugar
- Juice of two lemons
Pick meadowsweet flowers that are open, as the ones that remain closed will provide nectar to bees later when they open. Strip the flowers off the stems, as the leaves and stems are quiet bitter.
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Dissolve about 200 grammes of sugar in the pot of hot water and add the juice of two lemons. Add the meadowsweet flowers to the pot and submerge for a minute or two. Remove from the heat, cover with muslin cloth or tea towel and let infuse for about 24 hours. After 24 hours filter off the flowers and bring to a gentle boil and add in 200 grammes of sugar. Boil for 2 to 4 minutes. Pour into sterilised bottles and seal. Best stored in a cool dark place.
Meadowsweet tastes great with sparkling water or added to gin!