The Poets Promise; Sweet Cicely.

Today I am featuring a new found friend in my current neigbourhood, Sweet Cicely. A beautiful fragranced and delicate plant. It has a gentle feel about it, for me anyway.

The Sweet Cicely is known by many folk names, British Myrrh, Sweet chervil, The Roman plant, Cow chervil, Shepherd’s needle, Smooth Cicely, Sweet bracken, Sweet fern, Sweet humlock. The plant has a flavour rather like anise with a scent like lovage and it is very attractive to bees. All parts of the plant are edible and were used for food in the old days. The old herbalist describes the plant as ‘so harmless you cannot use it amiss.’

The name Myrrhis odorata derives from the Greek word for perfume because of its myrrh-like smell. Odorata means sweet-scented. Sweet Cicely derives from the mountains in Central Europe where it is a wild plant. Today it is feral in northern Europe.
Apparently the plant was brought by monks to the North from Central Europe in the Middle Ages, and they used it as well for food as for medicine. Leaves and stalks are good in fruit soups and as a green sprinkle on food and as a spice in marmalade.
The stalks were candied, and they were also used in stewed rhubarbs since it lessened the strong taste. A drink can be made which resembles the Greek alcohol Ouzo. Essence can be made by the flowers, the seed, the root and the green leaves. Pour alcohol over and make it draw for some days. This gives a fine light green drink with a piquant taste of anise.

In medicine the monks used the plant for digestive problems and for anemia in elderly people. The leaves were used as an incense for asthma. Infusions were used for flatulence and coughs. The roots have antiseptic action and were used to cure the bites of mad dogs and snakes. Steeped in wine, they were a remedy for consumption. It can be eaten as a general tonic.

It seems to be fond of river banks and likes sunny/shady areas.

Magical properties of the plant:
“This is the herb of Alfheim, used to honor the alfar and the fey. It is a pair with Fennel – “felamihtigu twa”, the mighty two, and they are most often used in conjunction. Tea of Sweet Cicely and Fennel protects against elf-shot; tea to drink or salve rubbed on the afflicted area treats cases of it. Sweet Cicely also aids in the Gift of Sight, in this case the ability to see beauty beneath ugliness, power beneath simplicity, and possibility beneath limitation. It is a useful plant when faced with clients who are living in a swamp of negativity, and you have to find them some hope. Drink in tea or smoke it or eat the seeds (preferably six of them).” – Source: 

http://www.northernshamanism.org

What I loved about it was the way it interacted with me. We fell in love instantly. When I put the leaves in my mouth, it was like someone had sprinkled a dusting of anise flavoured icing sugar over my tongue both in the taste and the sensation. It sweetens the breath and sweetens the tongue. In turn it sweetens the heart, sweetening the air as it passes out over the tongue. It opens up the eyes and heart of the poet, inducing the flow of the sweet honeyed sap of the Muse, succured and nurtured by Beauty. 

I have added a couple of my favourite sites for reference and further research:

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/cicswe67.html
https://herbs-herbal-supplements.knoji.com/edible-plants-myrrh-or-sweet-cicely-history-culinary-uses-and-nutrition/

http://www.gallowaywildfoods.com/?s=sweet+cicely

From Field To Fork: The Art of Horta, Cretan Style.

I decided to include a category in my blog for the wonderful food I experienced and recipes I learned while living on Crete. Eating the Cretan way has become such an integral part of my lifestyle, I can’t imagine my life without it. So to kick off, a basic staple. Horta.

Here is a step by step guide to getting some wild greens into your system. So simple, so delicious and so healthy! 

Find a patch of edible wild greens. Make sure you can fully identify the plants you are collecting. Simple examples are dandelions, nettles…here is a lovely list from this ladies web site:

http://www.dianekochilas.com/glossary-of-edible-wild-greens-2/

Collect.

De-bug and wash thoroughly. 

Boil gently. When cooked, remove onto a plate and keep the juice to drink with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Add olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

Eat.

Simples! 🙂

Hanging Out With Nettles.

​I had an enchanted morning, out in the fields gathering some wild nettles. Some for tonight’s dinner and some to dry to drink as a tea later on in the summer. Now, here it is prime time for the nettle, in the peak of its season. The fresh spring growth tender and abundant. 

You know, I miss so much from Crete and I was reflecting upon this as I was out this morning, what would be a regular sight, so familiar, of people out in the fields collecting wild plants and herbs, known under the generic term as horta (χόρτα), you just don’t see it happening here. People wandering about with a small knife in their hands and a carrier bag bursting full of vibrant fresh greens after having spent much time in the fields with their bum in the air. For Creten and Greek people it is a part of daily life and diet. Everywhere you go you made sure you had a carrier bag and a small pocket knife with you somewhere either in your pocket or in the car. 

I have really missed the aching of my back from having my bum poised mid air while collecting all the wonderful plants for dinners and drinks. But most of all, I miss the health I get from the plants as a reward! I do notice a big difference in my vitality after not having eaten freshly picked bitters and greens from the wild for a while. It has dropped considerably.

They are so good for you! The bitters help the stomach, they clear your skin, make your nails stronger, you get lots of nutrients, minerals, vitamins and energy from them. I won’t go into details but here are two excellent sources for further information for you to peruse and I will add them at the end of the post. 
I really miss also, more so than anything else, the closeness I felt to the land and plants on Crete. I do miss the plants of Crete very much…they became very familiar friends and allies. Companions. We had a wonderful relationship and I miss them as dearly, just as I would miss any close friend. When you are close to the land, you eat of it, you live and breathe it, you communicate with it, it becomes a part of you and you of it. You develop this amazing relationship with what is around you and with what you share this life with.

So, it is about going back to this way of living for me. And bringing what I learned on Crete here with me. So I am back out there, familiarizing myself with the local land spirits, the plants, the land. I have oatmeal and tabacco in my pocket ready to be offered. 
What I am really surprised about is, as I said above, what would be a familiar sight on Crete was met here this morning with people asking me what on earth I was doing! Not in an unfriendly way but they were genuinly asking me. I know there has been a surge of people re-wilding, it’s all over the internet anyway, and an uprising of foraging workshops, wild food workshops and just general awareness! But really, but I was surprised none the less by the responses. Perhaps it isn’t as  common a practice as I thought?

Either way, I loved my morning spent out in the fields. I will add this as it is a bug bear of mine and I always rant on about it, so bear with me:

As a rule of thumb, only collect what you need from the plants and respect them and the land where you are collecting. If avoidable and you are not collecting the whole of the plant for a specific purpose, make sure you don’t damage the plant too much to ensure new growth. If there is only a little of the plant growing, I would leave it alone. From where it grows abundantly, I collect. I always give a little something in return, some tabacco and or oatmeal. I always chat away with the plants too as I am collecting. 

Fun times!

Resources and further info:

Mrs Grieves Botanical:

http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nettle03.html

Am very excited about this lady’s work, check her out here at:

http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/