Wednesday, 6 July 2011

It's summer!

The garden is flourishing after surviving being buried under three feet of snow for months during the winter; I'm sure the sub zero temperatures we had month after month killed off many harmful viruses and bugs, as well as causing a super crystalisation of the snow that was extremely beautiful. I am waiting for the lavenders to flower as I ran out a few months ago and it is a vital ingredient of many of the teas I make, being a mental and physical relaxant that promotes digestive health. I also like to use it with marigold flowers in a strong infusion to treat yeast infections. I will also be harvesting the borage plants that have sprung up all over the garden - often in the most inconvenient or unexpected places, but I find them easy to accomodate as they bring in so many bees, have beautiful blue star-like flowers and when harvested can be used as a wonderful adrenal tonic. I have yet to experiment with adding the flowers to salads; maybe this year will be the first....

I managed by the skin of my teeth to collect elderflowers; we returned from holiday to find them in peak condition, but then daily rain frustrated my attempts to collect any. Finally, just as I thought they were all past their best and I would have to settle for the extra berries in a few months time, I found a dry bush on a sunny day in the Peak district where the cooler weather meant the flowers were only just emerging. I am stocked up with the dried and tinctured herb but I was very keen to make my first batch of elderflower cordial; it tastes delicious, but my recipe needs further tweaking next year.

The scent of elderflower has now left us for the year, and been replaced by the delectable perfume of linden blossom and wild honeysuckle. Linden blossom is one of my favourite herbs; it makes a delicious tea which is deeply relaxing, and also thought to benefit those with high blood pressure. I think it is a fine addition to teas taken when suffering from a cold, as it has a softening, lubricating quality to it and will help to soothe a cough or cold, especially if combined with marshmallow or mullein, elderfower, yarrow and plantain.

In January we adopted a lovely alsation-labrador cross, 4 year old dog. She has been a wonderful addition to our lives, not least because she gets me out into the woods every day, at least twice. As a result I have witnessed the gradual changes as winter gave way to early spring, succeeded in turn by late spring and early summer. Wood spurge, lesser celandine, bluebells and wild garlic - green, yellow, blue and white - are replaced by a frothy sea of fool's parsley with wood forget-me-not below. Brambles and willow herb emerge, and the unfurling of the tree canopy turns a world of open sky and monochrome tree skeletons into an intimate, green tent. Next year I intend to follow in the footsteps of so many others and keep a record of the first time I see each emerging plant.