British Flowers Week: How to use wildflowers and take advantage of their benefits

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

Flowers are not just for decoration. For hundreds of years, plants have been used to treat ailments, from insomnia to bloating. “It is easy to find healing plants growing wild in nature, or in your garden,” says herbalist Mo Wilde, author of The Wilderness Cure. “In fact, as soon as you go outside, you will encounter many weeds that can be used as simple medicines.”

Dandelions, for example, are renowned for being diuretic, while elderflowers boost the immune system. Lime flowers can balance high blood pressure and marigolds are anti-inflammatory.

However, Mo advises caution.

“Only ingest or use a wildflower if you’re 100 per cent sure of its identity. Some plants are harmful and even deadly. If you have a health condition, consult a qualified herbalist for guidance and speak to your GP.”

It’s British Flowers Week this week, so there’s no better time to celebrate the country’s most beneficial blooms.

DANDELION

“Dandelions get their name from the French ‘dent du lion’ or ‘tooth of the lion’, probably because their leaves have serrated tooth-like edges,” says Mo. “The plant is well-known for its diuretic qualities.”

Flowers: May to October. Grows on lawns and in the wild, but don’t pick dandelions from busy polluted roads.

Benefits: Works against bloating, especially swollen ankles, as it helps banish excess water in the body.

How to use: All parts of this slightly bitter plant are edible both raw and cooked. Many pre-war cookery books have recipes for dandelion leaf salad, which tastes similar to rocket.

Add the leaves to salads, pies and sandwiches. The yellow flowers, once the bitter green calyx is removed, are lovely infused in vinegar and used in salad dressings.

You can also add them to omelettes and risottos.

ELDERFLOWER

“Fragrant, yellow-white elderflowers grow on the elder tree,” says Mo.

“Traditionally, the elder was considered a wise tree, and it was unlucky to cut one down.”

Flowers: June. The elder tree grows in woodland scrub, hedgerows and on wasteland.

Benefits: Relieves sinus symptoms and hay fever. In winter, a cordial can be used to ease colds and flu.

It also boosts the immune system.

How to use: The washed flowers can be used as flavouring in wine, jellies and desserts. You can also make elderflower cordial. Try this simple recipe: 1 Add 1.5l of water, 20 fresh elderflowers and two sliced lemons to a pan. Bring to the boil.

2 Remove from heat, cover the pan and leave to infuse for a few hours or overnight. 3 Drain the liquid through a sieve. Discard the lemon slices and flowers.

4 Return the liquid to the pan and add 2kg sugar.

5 Bring to the boil, then simmer for five minutes.

6 Pour the elderflower cordial into sterilised bottles while hot. Keep in the fridge and use within two weeks.

MARIGOLD

“The Romans brought marigold seeds with them when they invaded Britain,” says Angela Paine, author of The Healing Power of Celtic Plants.

“But the ancient Celts, living along the south coast, may well have been growing the flowers long before.”

Flowers: Spring to early November. Marigolds grow in gardens, wasteland and on roadsides.

Benefits: The flowers are astringent, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal.

How to use: Marigold flowers and young leaves are edible, so add them to salads. Use the petals to colour and flavour soups, cakes and creamed vegetables.

Pregnant women should avoid ingesting marigolds.

DOG ROSE

“The dog rose has been growing in Britain since before the last Ice Age,” says Angela.

“A symbol of love, the rose was dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess nd of love in Greece, and Venus in Rome.”

Flowers: June and July. Dog rose grows in hedges and on the edges of woodland.

Benefits: Rose petals lift the spirits with their perfume.

Astringent and antioxidant, they can reduce hot flushes, ease stomach upsets, and help a sore mouth and throat.

How to use: Dry the rose petals and store in a glass container somewhere dark.

Add dried petals to bath water for an uplifting fragrant soak, or place in boiled water and allow to infuse for a few minutes to make a healing tea.

For a calming facial steam, add to hot water, with sprigs of lavender.

HONEYSUCKLE

“Woods in summer are often filled with the delicious scent of honeysuckle,” says Helen Keating, from the Woodland Trust.

“This beautiful, fragrant wildflower has edible blooms that can be used to add a sweet, honey flavour to many dishes.”

Flowers: June to September. Honeysuckle is a climbing plant found in old hedgerows and woodland edges.

Benefits: Helps to soothe indigestion, reduce inflammation and manage blood sugar levels.

How to use: Only use the flowers because the berries are mildly toxic.

Infuse a few flowers in boiled water to make a calming tea to ease a sore throat, or add to chilled fizzy water for a refreshing, cleansing drink.

LIME

“The flowers of lime trees have a sweet honey-like aroma and have been used as a food and medicine for centuries,” says Helen.

“The flowers have mild sedative and anti-anxiety properties, and were administered in field hospitals during the Second World War.”

Flowers: June and July. This large deciduous tree with it’s small yellow-white flowers can be found in gardens and parks.

Benefits: Its calming, relaxing properties make lime flower tea the ideal bedtime drink.

It can also help to balance high blood pressure.

How to use: Add fresh washed flowers to salads, dry and bake into cakes and breads, or use to make herbal teas by adding to boiled water.

BE SUSTAINABLE

Wildlife eat plants – so leave plenty for them. Only take what you plan to consume. Avoid trampling or uprooting plants, and pick from plentiful populations where you have permission.

*For information on foraging visit woodlandtrust.org.uk

Source: Read Full Article