Monday, July 04, 2011

Meadowsweet North Fife

Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria can be found anywhere it is damp and uncultivated, free from fertilizers and herbicides. Meadowsweet is a perennial herb, growing in damp meadows, ditches and bogs, at the edges of ponds, on river banks and in damp open woodland. Common throughot Europe, it is also be found in the eastern US and Canada as far west as Ohio. The creeping rootstock sends up a reddish, angular stem, up to 120cm tall, branched near the top and bearing alternate long-petioled leaves composed of two to five pairs of ovate, serrate leaflets which are widely tomentose beneath. The small, creamy-white five-petaled flowers with over twenty protruding stamens grow in panicled cymes from June to August.

The whole herb possesses a pleasant taste and flavour, the green parts having a similar aromatic character to the flowers, leading to the use of the plant as a strewing herb, strewn on floors to give the rooms a pleasant aroma, and its use to flavour wine, beer, and many vinegars. The flowers can be added to stewed fruit and jams, giving them a subtle almond flavor. It has many medicinal properties. The whole plant is a traditional remedy for an acidic stomach, and the fresh root is often used in infinitesimal quantities in homeopathic preparations. It is effective on its own as a treatment for diarrhea. The flowers, when made into a tea, are a comfort to flu sufferers. Dried, the flowers make lovely pot pourri.

Meadowsweet was one of the three herbs held most sacred to the Druids (Vervain and Water-mint being the other two). It was one of the fifty ingredients in a drink called 'Save' in Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale', where it was called Medwort or Meadwort. It was also a popular Elizabethan strewing herb. The name Ulmaria is given in allusion to the resemblance of its leaves to those of the elm (Ulmus).

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