Containing shrubs, trees and small herbs, this family offers varied harvests from foods with soya beans, lentils, chick peas and peanuts to fenugreek, senna, red clover, goat’s rue, melilot and kidney vetch. There are many foods in this family which we may be using regularly. Some also we have used in previous workshops such as Astragalus gummifer, a shrub native to Turkey and Iran which is the source of gum tragacanth. Also dyer’s greenweed a herb used on days dyeing silk. There is plenty to talk about and include in recipes to eat and use in other ways. With Alfalfa and liquorice they are both food and medicine. We will have sprouted seeds, plant milk, nuts and green garden manures to enliven the day alongside the medicinal properties of certain herbs in recipes.
This promises to be a day not only to learn more about common foods and their properties but also to explore herbal medicine in areas such as blood sugar control, oestrogen deficiency, bladder and bowel complaints, insomnia, adrenal exhaustion and lymphatic support.
After 2 years of being unable to set a workshop in a historical house it is a joy to return to stillroom days. In the 1573 edition, Thomas Tusser’s original hundred points was increased to Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry. The role of wives was taken into consideration. Among the many wide-ranging instructions is a list of herbs for her to still in summer for use in medicine and cookery. Many other herbs for physic appear in a separate list and his choice for distilling is interesting with some surprising entries. Along with blessed thistle, betony and roses we find raspberries, strawberries, saxifrage and sorrel. Dill, fennel, mints, woodruff and hyssop are more easily understood. As well as distilling aromatic water we will look at other herbs in his lists and discover more of their roles in strewing, fragrances and physic from the sixteenth century.
The stillroom was a busy place with many tasks to complete some of that fragrant bustling atmosphere will become apparent as the day passes.
On this day we will explore the rich traditional use of our native British herbs. The Anglo-Saxon Leechbooks contain references to around four hundred herbs, many of which are native to the British Isles. Their subsequent survival in practice through centuries of invasion and introduction of foreign herbs used by other cultures will be followed, revealing their outstanding use and efficacy. Their roles today are less well known despite their familiarity as wayside plants and some suffer the derisory title of garden ”weeds.” It is time to restore appreciation of all they have to offer.
Remembering a “weed” is actually a plant thriving better than deliberately planted foreign species, because it is in its native environment, we will be walking about the Museum identifying plants of specific interest. Talking about their histories will prepare the way for appreciating their actions and chemistry by making medicinal recipes both historical and modern. Likely herbs are alehoof, agrimony, burdock, chickweed, daisy, dandelion, elder, greater plantain, herb bennet, ivy, native golden rod and native lady’s mantle, hawthorn, meadowsweet and self-heal.
This day gives a look at the garden community from the perspective of the plants. Plant’s awareness of their surroundings through sensing light direction and intensity, colours, forms, touch, vibration and scents is a fascinating area of scientific study. We will be considering new discoveries along with the chemical vocabulary of plant communication both above and below ground. From the influence of the sun and moon to trading nutrients and carbon with mycorrhizal fungi modern discovery supports historical instructions for gathering the herbs for the correct therapeutic value.
Plant relationships with each other, with insects, birds, animals and ourselves pose new questions such as whether plants feel pain. They have intense relationships with friends and foes which then begs the question as to which category we belong under? Also, are we growing them for our benefit or are they provoking us to do so for theirs? Who farms who runs through many aspects of the garden community.