Sunday, 5 August 2012

Harvest time!

The rain damaged much of my bumper strawberry crop but I still managed to harvest enough to have a bowlful every day and spares to pass onto neighbours. The damaged ones I combined initially with the high pectin gooseberries (another bumper crop!) to make into delicious jam, flavoured by elderflowers collected on my daily walks until their season passed. The balckcurrant bush fruited properly for the first time and I have made several jars of jam, easy because of the fruit's high pectin content. Last night we had a mixed berry and apple crumble, but that may be the last this year; only the rhubarb is still looking good for another harvest.

I am going to pick the blackcurrant leaves to see what the tea made from them tastes like. Whilst part of the herbal medicine repertoire they are not as well publicised as other herbs which seems a pity when they are so often there in people's gardens. The nutritional beneft of the berries is well known; isn't it wonderful that so many berries are both delicious and good for us! Already there have been whole families out picking bilberries on the moors. Next up will be elderberries and blackberries.

St John's Wort at last!

Phew! Just managed to harvest the St John's Wort last week before the rain returned. I'd been watching it anxiously, wondering if it would flower whilst the sunshine lasted, and it made it with one day to spare. I used to pick lots of Hypericum Perforatum when I lived in London but hadn't found a good source in Sheffield until it self seeded in my garden, hurray! Its botanical name refers to the tiny holes in its leaves; its common name is a reminder of the value that the knights of St John put on this plant for its healing properties; they used it in ointments to help heal bruises and burns. The modern usage of the tincture (which extracts different plant constituents to the oil or tea) for alleviating mild to moderate depression is relatively new, although its use in past cultures for keeping away evil influences may translate to warding off the stresses of modern day living....

I have packed my harvested herb into a glass jar and just put in enough good quality sunflower oil to cover it. It is now living in the greenhouse where the sun will help the oil to absorb the healing constituents, turning it a lovely red colour. Often used by herbalists to apply to areas of nerve damage and bruising, I also like to use it in my massage practice with added essential oils to alleviate muscular aches and pains.