We're just about to leave the now quiet fields of Cornwall after two weeks in our ancient caravan in the south west. As well as "reading" hedgerows everywhere I go, I've also been using local herbs as situations arise.
We started off in Exmouth at the Rotary Club's annual kite festival where my husband's kite team, Sky Symphony were performing. The Kite Festival takes place on public ground next to the estuary where sunsets are spectacular against the opposing hills and fennel grows in abundance. This year I thought to create a new tea using what I'd brought with me and what I could gather along the estuary banks. It was a delightful drink served either hot or cold.
Exmouth Estuary Tea
4 large fronds of fennel roughly ripped
1 handful of hawthorn blossom
1 peeled ginger root chopped fine
1 sliced orange
Place everything in a large heat proof jug and pour over up to 1litre or 2 pints of just boiled water. Cover and infuse for ten minutes. Drink warm or chill. It will keep for up to 24 hours.
When the festival finished on Sunday evening, we moved on to Lydford in southern Devon. Lydford is also well known for the spectacular Gorge, now managed by the National Trust. Despite intending to have a rest day on Monday, we couldn't resist walking around the Gorge with the White Lady's waterfall and Devil's Cauldron. The round trip of five miles was stunningly beautiful and well worth undertaking, but I managed to damage my big toes with significant bruising.
I was really worried that pressure would build up behind the nail and need lancing, so I took my foraging basket around the caravan park and immediately found yarrow and plantain. These were added to cleavers and what looked like wild valerian leaves to make a strong tea. Then I soaked my feet in a small bowl sitting outside on the grass wrapped up in my purple cloak until the footbath was cold. A spit poultice of more yarrow and plantain was tied around my big toe with a piece of old sheet at 2 hourly intervals and kept on overnight.
The throbbing disappeared by morning and thankfully there was no problem walking in sandals the next day. My toes were still tender to touch, but no swelling. Walking around Morewellham Quay where they filmed the Edwardian Farm was a really enjoyable experience, but the heat and extra exercise did make my ankles swell and my toe look fairly angry, so I spent the evening with my feet up and my toe ensconced in another spit poultice overnight. It is healing slowly.
Next was a visit to Buckfast Abbey which has an extensive lavender garden. The sensory garden was stunning, but I was really disappointed in the physic garden. It has obviously been created by someone with limited knowledge of herbs. Honeysuckle was labelled as poisonous if eaten and in the poison garden, goats rue (galega officinalis) was labelled as rue (ruta graveolens). Solomons seal (polygonatum multiflorum) was also present in the poison garden, which was deeply saddening to see.
During a restful day around Lydford village we stumbled across the ancient Saxon spring newly restored by the local council to celebrate the village's heritage. Beside the spring grows a wonderful profusion of watercress the blooms almost as strong as horseradish root and very tasty!
Our time in Cornwall was mostly spent sharing our grandson's first beach holiday. The cottage they were staying in boasted a small herb culinary garden outside the kitchen door with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme which I used during one of our evening meals. I also made a butternut squash pasta sauce with the marjoram and thyme I'd brought from my own garden - I was amazd how well it had lasted wrapped up in a plastic bag and kept in the fridge!
Today I shall be gathering a bundle of comfrey which grows wild along the roadside just down from the campsite. I shall be taking it home to make some tea for my tomato plants - if I have any left after all the terrible storms!
What have been your recent herbal holiday experiences you would like to share?