Herbs is November

 TOP L-R: FIRE CIDER, TURKEY TAIL MUSHROOM, VALERIAN, DANDELION  BOTTOM L-R: HORSERADISH, MARSHMALLOW, COUGH SYRUP, MAKING LEAFMOULD

TOP L-R: FIRE CIDER, TURKEY TAIL MUSHROOM, VALERIAN, DANDELION

BOTTOM L-R: HORSERADISH, MARSHMALLOW, COUGH SYRUP, MAKING LEAFMOULD

HARVEST

Plants are entering their dormant state now. We can see trees dropping their leaves and herbaceous plants starting to die back, but all plants, even if looking lush and green, are starting to slow right down. So, although it’s ok to still harvest from evergreens like rosemary, thyme and sage, do it in moderation, as they won’t be actively growing over the next few months.

Roots, however, are at their peak! As plants start to die back, they shift all their energy to the roots, which can be harvested now for optimal goodness. Dandelion, burdock, horseradish, valerian, marshmallow and elecampane are some examples of roots used widely in herbalism.

Now is also the time of mushrooms! Although technically not herbs, mushrooms are just as useful and amazing both for culinary and medicinal purposes. If you don’t have much experience with these wonderful gifts of nature, guided mushroom walks and forays are a great walk to start learning about the fascinating world of fungi.


MAKE

A lot of those roots we mentioned above are perfect ingredients for herbal preparations that help us stay healthy throughout winter, so make and stock up on herbal tonics and remedies such as Fire Cider and Marshmallow syrup.

IN THE GARDEN

The ‘growing season’ might be over now, but there’s still a lot that can be done in a garden:

Cut back perennials that have died down, but leave those with upright stems. Dried seed heads look beautiful in winter, and hollow stems provide valuable habitat for insects.

If you haven’t got a compost pile going yet, now’s a good time to set one up using the green waste generated by plants dying back and being pruned back.

It’s also the perfect time to start a leaf mould pile. Gather all those fallen autumn leaves in a breathable bag or a chicken-wire frame and let them be. In time they’ll rot down to a crumbly material which works great as a mulch and soil texture improver.

If growing in pots and containers, raise them off the ground (onto pot feet, crates or even a pallet) to avoid water logging over the next few (wet) months.

SOW

Although now is not really the right time of the year to start herbs from seed, if you have a sunny windowsill, you can still grow leafy culinary herbs such as basil, dill, chives and parsley indoors. They'll grow slower than usual, so try to be patient and enjoy their company as they grow.

Something really fun to try in the winter months is growing herbs as microgreens. Simply sow a small tray or container quite densely and harvest the whole plant while it's still pretty young. Microgreens are packed with nutrients and have the intense, concentrated taste of the original herb that is somehow quite delicate at the same time. A real treat!

INNER GARDENING

As the cold weather settles, the seasonal wheel has turned and there’s no doubt we’re moving from a balmy autumn into a cooler winter. The seasonal shift this time of year can be difficult for folks as the days are noticeably shorter and darker and 4:30 feels like 9pm! Low moods, feeling fatigued, irritable and uninspired are common in this transition. It can be powerful to remember that all life cycles through transitions and reflecting on the cyclical nature of things can help us keep half an eye on the bigger picture. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What cycles have you observed in nature over the past year? Perhaps you’ve noticed the leaves grow from buds into lush greenery to complete their cycle, yellowing and falling off? Have there been any particular herbs you’ve seen or grown from seed, watched flourish and harvested before they’ve gone back to seed?

  • What cycles have been completed in your life, work or relationships? Perhaps there’s been something you’ve been working on which you can now look back on and see has been resolved, understood or put down? Only for something new to come up?

  • Have you noticed any circles around you? Look out for circles in nature or cyclical movements in the turn of a bicycle wheel or stirring water in a pan.

During this transition we can trust that the wheel will turn once again and we are invited to enjoy what’s here now because it too will change. Thankfully ‘the one thing that is constant is change.’

Words Camila B & Amy B


Herbs in October

October arrives with the freshness of Autumn as the plants shift their energy from seeds to roots.

 Clockwise from top right - Lavender seeds, Sloe berries, Dandelions, Parsley seed, Mint cuttings, Rose hips

Clockwise from top right - Lavender seeds, Sloe berries, Dandelions, Parsley seed, Mint cuttings, Rose hips

HARVEST

The berry season continues with some rose hips, hawthorn, and sloes still around.

Keep an eye out for mature seed heads, and save them either for consumption or for planting next year. Remember that in the wild, many plants rely on their dropped seeds for propagation, so if foraging, be mindful of how much you’re taking.

Now it is also the time to start harvesting roots. As plants begin preparing for the winter months ahead, they transfer their energy to the roots, so autumn is the perfect time to harvest medicinal roots like dandelion, burdock, elecampane, yellow dock, marshmallow and valerian. Some roots, particularly starchy ones, are better harvested once they have been exposed to the cold, so it’s a good idea to wait until the first frost to start digging.

MAKE

Have you heard of Dandelion coffee? This healthy coffee substitute is simply the dried and powdered roots of the common dandelion we see everywhere. Just like coffee, it’s pretty bitter and makes a delicious drink, but unlike coffee, it can be sourced locally and it’s free! It is also packed with nutrients and has an array of health benefits, improving gallbladder function and promoting healthy digestion.

If you had any fennel going to flower this year, you were probably left with a bunch of beautiful seed heads. A great and delicious way to use fennel seeds is to munch them as an after meal digestive. Herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt has a great recipe for a digestive treat using fennel seed and candied ginger.

IN THE GARDEN

Lift and divide overcrowded herbaceous perennials while the soil is still warm.

If you want to keep any herbaceous culinary herbs going throughout winter, lift and pot some of the plants up and take them indoors to a sunny windowsill. Alternatively, there is still time to take cuttings and get new little plants going.

Prune climbing and rambling roses once they've finished flowering.

Something to bear in mind this time of the year is the importance of insect habitats where our tiny friends can overwinter. Simple things like leaving the dried flower stems on the plants, or a couple of logs on the ground can make a huge difference and will offer shelter to dozens of different bugs. For an even bigger impact, you can build a ‘bug hotel’ using simple materials like twigs, dried leaves, straw and cardboard.

SOW

With the cold months approaching, now is not the best time to start new herbs from seed outdoors, but if you have a sunny windowsill, you can grow leafy culinary herbs indoors pretty much all year round. Coriander, parsley, dill and chives are some great options.

INNER GARDENING

Autumn is root time. As we’ve seen plants put their energy into their roots so they have a strong and stable foundation to blossom from in spring. We are the same: to grow, blossom and flow through life’s challenges we need secure roots and a solid grounding. This sense of stability and rootedness is found by feeling at home in our bodies and on the body of the earth. This can be difficult in a culture that prioritises thought and predominantly indoor lifestyles. Here are a few suggestions to connect with your roots:

  • Dance! Dance is one of the best ways to connect to your body and to feel your physical presence on the ground. Putting our attention and weight down into the legs and feet is instantly grounding. Swing your hips to the radio while making tea, put some music on that you love and dance in your room or go to a dance class. This is a guaranteed way to connect to the root of your body. Yoga is super supportive for connecting to the body too.

  • Get a massage. This is a wonderful way to feel the physicality of your body and to treat it with the love it deserves. There are many places to get reasonably priced massages at student clinics and community centres or you could do an exchange with a friend or partner.

  • Focus on your feet. By bringing energy to our feet we are strengthening our rootedness and the base on which we stand. Wiggle your toes in your shoes, stamp your feet on the ground, get a pedicure or rub some oil into your feet before bed.

  • Research your roots and find out where you are from. Ask family members about your grandparents or great grandparents and if there are any photos of them. As many great teachers have said, to know where we are going, means knowing our roots and where we are from.


Words Camila B & Amy B

Herbs in September

September marks a seasonal shift as the equinox approaches and a slowing down both out in nature and for ourselves.

 TOP L-r Hawthorn, Rosehips, chickweed, nettle seeds // bottom l-r hollyhock seeds, heartease, hops

TOP L-r Hawthorn, Rosehips, chickweed, nettle seeds // bottom l-r hollyhock seeds, heartease, hops

HARVEST

September is a great time for berries, like rosehips, sloes, haws and juniper berries. Whether you have them growing in your garden, or fancy going out for a forage, this is the time to collect these little wonders.

While out foraging, also look out for hops, nettle seeds and other wild herbs.  Some of the spring herbs have a second flush of young growth around now, so you might come across things like chickweed, three cornered leek and white deadnettle.

In the garden, enjoy lots of fresh leafy herbs like mint, sage, oregano and thyme, as their harvest season will be over soon.

Violas (violets, pansies, heartsease) are in full flower at the moment, use them in salads, desserts, teas, syrups and other creative preparations.

MAKE

Preserve some of the current hedgerow abundance by making a rosehip syrup or hawthorn berry jelly. If sweet is not your thing, combine their healing and nurturing properties into a berry vinegar. Simply put the berries in a jar, cover with apple cider vinegar and leave it to infuse for 4-6 weeks. Strain, and use as you would use other vinegars.

IN THE GARDEN

This time is a time of seeds! Most plants are now getting ready to either complete their life cycle, or slow down for the winter, and part of that means producing seeds. Packed with nutrients and general goodness, seeds are pretty magical little things that make wonderful food, medicine, and of course, whole new plants. So gather them! Collect them to eat fresh and to preserve, or wait for them to ripen and then gather and store them for next year’s season.

Take note (and pictures) of where your herbaceous plants are, so next year you remember what to expect where.

Prune climbing roses once they've finished flowering and remove any suckers that may have sprouted from the base.

Celebrate the equinox. It represents the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one, both very clear when we watch plants and nature and general. Tuning into these changes is a great way to connect to our greater surroundings.

SOW

Although the growing season is coming to an end, there is still quite a bit of seed sowing that can be done in September. If you’re growing herbs indoors on a windowsill, you can still start new plants that don’t need a lot of heat, like coriander and chives. Hardy flowering herbs like calendula, nigella, feverfew and poppy can be sown outdoors now, for an early display of flowers next spring.

INNER GARDENING

I’m not sure about you but here at Hackney Herbal, we’re ready to slow down. The high, outward energy of summer has been reflected in the business of our lives and the heat of this year has accumulated into a juicy, full-on season. As the plants begin to slow down, drop their leaves and reserve their energy for the colder months, it makes sense for us to do the same. This month we’ll explore some practical suggestions to match nature and slow down. It can be really difficult in a city where we don’t live by the seasons so go gently and look to nature for inspiration.

  1. Do less. There’s a huge cultural pressure to be busy all the time and when we keep going without listening to our need for rest, it leads to burnout. Say no to commitments that aren’t necessary and remember that ‘no’ is a sentence in itself, it doesn’t require an explanation. The less you do the more you have to give.

  2. Disconnect from your phone and take a break from social media. We all know we should do this more but often find ‘reasons’ not to. You could leave your phone at home when you know you won’t need it; turn it off at night; have a ‘no phone/s in the bedroom’ rule; only go on social media for a designated time each day e.g between 6-7pm.

  3. Connect with nature. Observe how it changes this month. Feel the difference in the air temperature on your skin. Watch the leaves turning yellow. Take a deep breath, then do it again. Notice the difference in how you feel. The more aware we are, the less caught in our heads worrying about the past, future or what we have to do which naturally allows us to slow down.

    Words Camila B & Amy B

Herbs in August

August arrives with a spell of cooler weather, some much needed rain and a bounty of herby delights. 

 Top L-r Yarrow, Elderberries, sage, orange mint // middle right - Basil // Bottom l-r mixed herbs, marshmallow, ground ivy,  rosemary cutting

Top L-r Yarrow, Elderberries, sage, orange mint // middle right - Basil // Bottom l-r mixed herbs, marshmallow, ground ivy,  rosemary cutting

HARVEST

As summer continues, so does the harvest season, with plenty of choices of what to harvest. From sage and oregano, to marshmallow and chamomile, herbs are growing fast this time of the year.

Basil, a particularly summery herb, is at its peak. Keep harvesting the tips to encourage the plant to bush out and produce more leaves. A lot of the mints, like peppermint, spearmint, and all their different cultivars, are now flowering. If you're growing different varieties and don't want them to hybridise, keep snipping the flowering stems before they mature into seeds.

There is also much to be found in the wild, including yarrow, meadowsweet, ground ivy, mugwort and elderberries.

MAKE

Use the heat and energy from all the sunshine we've been having to make a sun-infused tea. Fill a bottle with water, add herbs and put it out in the sun to infuse for a few hours. The result is a lovely mild infusion that is just perfect at the end of a hot day.

For an extra-refreshing drink, go for ice-tea. It can be made either by brewing tea as you normally would, leaving it to cool and then refrigerating, or by making a really strong brew and adding lots of ice. Either way, it's a lovely way to keep hydrated and cool.

If you want to go another step further, brew a strong pot of tea, pour it into ice lolly moulds, freeze for a few hours and voila, herbal ice lollies are on the menu. Mixing herbs like liquorice, sweet cicely and fennel into the brew will add natural sweetness, making these herbal delights feel even more like a treat.

IN THE GARDEN

August is a great time to take semi-ripe cuttings, which is an excellent way to start or expand your herb collection - easy, efficient and inexpensive! Cuttings taken this time of the year work well for a lot of the plants in our herb garden - particularly herbaceous plants like mint and oregano, evergreens like rosemary and sage, shrubs like rose and honeysuckle, and even evergreen trees like bay.  

It goes without saying that with all this heat, and almost no rain in the past couple of months, most garden plants need our help to stay hydrated, so don't forget to water well. Remove dried or fading leaves to help invigorate plants and watch out for any signs of pests and diseases.

Seeds have already started ripening, so if you have let any of your flowering plants mature in order to save seed, keep an eye on the seed heads. You want to collect them once they are fully mature and no longer green, but before the seeds naturally drop to the ground. Some of the seeds we’ve been collecting or are currently watching include poppies, calendula, coriander, mullein and hollyhock.

Trim Lavender plants after they've finished flowering for the first time to encourage a second flush of blooms. Cut the stems to 1 to 3 inches below the flowers, but be careful not to cut into old wood, as it might not grow back.

SOW

Now is a good time to sow biennial herbs like parsley. Or, why not try one of the less common plants in the same family, like chervil and carawayViolas, poppies, and calendulas can also be sown now to overwinter and provide earlier flowers next Spring. If you're looking for herbs you can start now and still get a crop this season, go for fast growing plants like dill and coriander.

INNER GARDENING

Summer this year has been like no other with continual 27 degrees C+ days and very little rain. For gardeners it has presented extra challenges, more work and also an opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the British rain; the free, abundant supply of water that normally falls from our skies so regularly, nourishing the plants, soil and making our jobs much easier!

Is there anything in your life that you moan about but if it wasn’t there you’d begin to miss and come to appreciate? Perhaps your boss who is always piling more work on your desk with no extra pay but whose expertise you’ve learnt a lot from? Your friend who always talks about their boyfriend but whose company you love and you share the same interests as? Gardening certainly has the capacity to change our relationship to the weather just as we always have the opportunity to change negative attitudes and thinking to more positive ones. This month, is there something that isn’t quite perfect that you could reframe in a more positive way that’ll not only benefit you but also the people around you?

Word Camila B & Amy B

Herbs in July

The height of summer is here and with it comes an abundance of herbs from both cultivated plots or gardens and the wild spaces that surround us. 

 Top row L-R Meadowsweet, Nettle seeds, Marshmallow, Borage. Bottom row L-R Fennel, Lavender & Sage & Rosemary, Yarrow, Feverfew 

Top row L-R Meadowsweet, Nettle seeds, Marshmallow, Borage. Bottom row L-R Fennel, Lavender & Sage & Rosemary, Yarrow, Feverfew 

HARVEST

This is the peak of the harvesting season, with intense new growth all around.

Carry on harvesting leaves like mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, savoury, basil, parsley, coriander, chervil, fennel and bay, and flowers like calendula, chamomile, st. john's wort and lavender. marshmallow has started flowering, so now is the perfect time to harvest the flowers and young leaves. Borage is also in full bloom! Add the flowers to salads, decorate cakes, or use them to make the prettiest ice cubes ever.

Lemon balm's aromatic properties are a lot less noticeable once it starts flowering. Depending on how hard you have been harvesting from your plant, it might have already flowered or will start flowering anytime now. Once it starts, stop harvesting and let it do its thing. The wildlife around you will be grateful.

This is also a time of abundance in the wild: mallow continues to flower, and some of our summer favourites have come into season, including yarrow, mugwort and meadowsweet. Nettle seeds will soon be ripe and ready for picking too. Eat them fresh as a nutritious snack, add them to food, or dry for later use.

MAKE

Incorporate as many fresh herbs as possible into your food. Make herbal drinks like cordials, ice teas, or even herbal ice lollies. If you have plenty to harvest from, keep some for later in the year. Drying is a simple way to preserve herbs, that then can be used in teas, in cooking, or in the making of other herbal preparations.

A great idea we will try this summer is nettle seed salt: harvest the seeds as soon as they look ripe, lay them on a piece of fabric or tissue paper and place in an airy cupboard to dry for a couple of days, mix the seeds with an equal amount of sea salt, and voila, you've got an extremely nutritious addition to table salt. If you prefer fine salt, just put the mix in a blender and pulse a few times to break it down to a finer texture.

IN THE GARDEN

Trim established perennial plants like lovage and sage after they have flowered. Pruning plants after flowering helps to maintain an attractive shape and encourages lots of new growth.

Keep an eye out for any signs of disease or pest damage. It is much easier to help your plants recover when these things are noticed early on. A couple of potential troublemakers to watch out for are aphids  on a variety of plants; celery leaf miner on parsley, celery and lovage; and rosemary beetles on rosemary, lavender and sage.

Watering is very important in the summer: not only does the soil dry out quicker, but the plants also require extra moisture to sustain all new growth they have been putting on. Without enough water, plants get stressed and therefore more prone to bolting, diseases and pest attacks, so make sure to keep your plants hydrated. This is even more important when it comes to plants in pots or containers, that can dry out in a matter of hours on a sunny summer day. An easy way to ensure your potted plants have access to enough water to keep them going is to place them in a dish or tray filled with water, so they soak it up from below.

SOW

There is still time to sow annual herbs now and enjoy them this season. Go for fast growing plants like basil, dill, coriander, nasturtium and borage, and you should have a nice harvesting window before the first frost hits in autumn.

Now it is also a great time to sow hardy biennials like parsley and chervil. Direct sow in a sheltered spot to get a supply of fresh leaves during the winter months.

INNER GARDENING

July is peak harvest time... all the work we’ve put into the garden this year is beginning to show and we’re enjoying the beauty and abundance of nature.

In what areas of your life have you put a lot of thought, time and effort into this year? Are there any particular relationships, jobs or parts of yourself you have been working hard on? Where can you now harvest the fruits by taking a step back and acknowledging how far you’ve come and what you’ve learnt?

We live in a fast paced culture where the focus is on constant growth, so we often forget to take time to harvest, to acknowledge the insights we’ve gained and celebrate what we’ve accomplished. A wonderful quote to consider while harvesting this month... ‘remember when you wanted what you currently have?’

Word Camila B & Amy B
 

Aromatherapy Week // Top 5 essential oils to have at home

Lavender.jpg

Aromatherapy is the name used to describe the use of essential oils for remedial and therapeutic purposes, of which there are many! Like herbs, one of the amazing benefits of aromatherapy is the holistic effect it has on both the mind and body - as the healing qualities of the oils impact the physical body, the scent interacts with us mentally.

All essential oils come from all different plant sources - spices, herbs, flowers, trees or vegetables. They are completely natural, organic compounds aptly named ‘essential’ due to the fact they contain both the scent of their source and its unique healing properties, in a highly concentrated form. Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils can be incorporated into daily life in a variety of ways, much like the versatility of herbs!

Inhalation: either in an oil burner, electric diffuser or even directly from a tissue. A steam inhalation is also a great way to relieve colds and coughs and clear any sinus congestion.

In the bath or shower:  You can add up to 20 drops of your chosen essential oils to a warm bath for the desired effect; to promote restful sleep, soothe aching muscles, invigorate and energise, help period pain and stomach ache or even ease a hangover. If you don’t have a bath, you could mix essential oils with a base vegetable oil (like coconut oil) and apply it to your body before getting in the shower.

As a body treatment: Similarly, you can dilute essential oils in a carrier oil and use as a daily hydration treatment or skin moisturiser. For a 50ml face oil, use 12-15 drops and for a 50ml body oil, 25-30 drops.

Massage: While an aromatherapy massage from a professional therapist is a wonderful indulgence, self-massage is an incredible way to feel the benefits of essential oils at home for free. You can personalise the oils you use to enhance your mood or relieve areas of tension. Taking just 5 minutes (or more whenever you can!) to mindfully massage your feet, hands, face or area requiring attention will allow you to unwind both mentally and physically.

Top 5 essential oils to have at home and their key uses:

Lavender. Certainly the oil that almost everyone is familiar with, Lavender has extensive uses for health, wellbeing and first aid. It can be applied direct to the skin and can be used topically to treat minor burns, acute sunburn, cuts, insect bites and blemishes. A must have for every household, it is one powerful oil. Renowned for its relaxing, soothing properties, it can help you get to sleep, relax aching muscles, relieve period pain, headaches and migraines, and can be used to soothe stress, anxiety and depression. Like the plant, there are many types of lavender oil and it can be produced in many countries as it grows pretty much everywhere, although France is generally considered the best source for quality lavender essential oil.

Tea Tree. Another valuable oil with a multitude of uses, tea tree has been used for centuries and you’ll often spy it as an ingredient in everything from bathroom cleaner to  face cream to throat medicine. Commonly grown in Australia, it is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic and can fight pretty much any kind of bacteria, virus or fungi. Tea tree can also be applied directly to heal cuts and wounds and treat skin infections, and it is brilliant for acne and spots. You can diffuse it around the home or office to ward off illness or inhale to treat a cold or cough. Tea tree is also a useful oil in homemade shampoo or hair products.

Peppermint. The essential oil has many of the same properties as the herb itself. Generally it is best to avoid consumption of any essential oils and stick to the herb form for tea and culinary recipes but the oil has plenty of beneficial use. The stimulating oil has a cooling effect - apply to the forehead and temples to prevent or aid travel sickness, and massage in circular motions to the stomach to treat bloating, PMS or nausea. For tired feet and legs, it’s great in a homemade foot bath with some epsom salt. It can also be used alone or in combination with lavender to alleviate headaches - particularly tension headaches or those brought on from stress. It has fantastic antispasmodic properties, so works wonders on muscle and joint pain - great post exercise. Inhaling it can also clear the sinuses and even help with hayfever or seasonal allergies.

Lemon. Probably the most commonly used out of the citrus oils, this is another ingredient you’ll often see used frequently in household products. Lemon is perhaps best known for its cleansing abilities - from clearing out toxins in the body to naturally cleaning a kitchen! It is also naturally energising, and great as a mood booster when you’re feeling drained, mentally or physically. It’s a highly effective oil for concealing bad smells such as smoke or animals in the home or car. Use alone or with tea tree in an oil burner or diffuser, as an antibacterial room freshener or you could make your own cleaning spray. Like herbs, there are a variety of lemon oils out there. ‘Melissa’ AKA lemon balm, is one of the most powerful oils in treating depression, due to its simultaneously hypnotic and sedative properties.

Rosemary. Again with similar properties to the herb, rosemary oil is praised for its ability to improve memory, soothe digestion and relax muscle aches and pains. It’s also a great oil for hair as it promotes growth and imparts shine. Applied directly to the scalp, it stimulates growth and can also soothe dandruff and dry scalp. For shiny hair, you can make your own rosemary water to spray the hair daily or rinse it with rosemary oil after washing. You could even make your own shampoo and conditioner. Rosemary is one of the best oils for treating a hangover! Add 5-10 drops to a warm bath the morning after the night before for a little pick-me-up.  

Herbs in June

June is a pretty magical time of the year, the days are really long, plants grow at an astounding rate and there's an explosion of colour as flowers of the most diverse shapes and shades come into season.

 Top row l-r, Mallow, Lavender, Lime flower, Lady's Mantle. Centre, Rose. Bottom row l-r, Chamomile, Pot Marigold,  Mint, St. John's Wort

Top row l-r, Mallow, Lavender, Lime flower, Lady's Mantle. Centre, Rose. Bottom row l-r, Chamomile, Pot Marigold,  Mint, St. John's Wort

HARVEST

Plants in the mint family like lemon balm, oregano, and all types of mint can be harvested pretty hard and will quickly grow back, so don't be afraid to do it regularly. Lavender has started flowering and the first blossoms should be ready to harvest soon, so keep an eye out. The best time to harvest lavender is when about 75% of the flowers on the blooms are open.

Keep on harvesting pot marigold and chamomile flowers regularly. The more flowers you remove, the more the plant will produce. Harvest the unripe seeds of sweet cicely. They are delicious in teas, cold infusions, or simply as a refreshing treat to chew on. st. john's wort is traditionally picked around St John's day on 24th June, so look out for those precious yellow flowers towards the end of the month.

Another medicinal flower that should be ready to harvest from mid June is linden, also known as limeflower. The linden tree is considered sacred and an important icon in the mythology and folklore of many cultures. The flowers have an array of health benefits and are widely used in herbalism.

Other lovely flowers to harvest in June are rose, lady’s mantle and honeysuckle. Feverfew is also in full bloom at the moment. Although the part used is actually the leaf, it is best harvested when the plants are flowering. Try to never take more than one third of the plant at a time, so it can recover and stay healthy.

And don't forget you can use your weeds! Now it is a good time to collect plantain leaves, blackberry leaves, horsetail, and mallow flowering tops. Nettles have started flowering, so it's no longer a good idea to consume the leaves, but we will soon be able to harvest the seeds.

MAKE

Use the abundance of wonderful plants growing at the moment in food, fresh teas, cold infusions, herb vinegars and other herb extracts, and dry some for use later in the year when there's less fresh stuff around.

Now that the weather has warmed up, it's a great time to make sun-infused oils. Why not try infusing pot marigold or st john's wort flowers in oil for use in balms and other skin products? Simply put the flowers in a jar, cover with your oil of choice, and leave it on a sunny windowsill for four weeks to infuse.

IN THE GARDEN

Now it is the perfect time to take softwood cuttings of perennial herbs, like mint, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and lemon verbena. It is also a great time to cut back chive plants. Once they have finished flowering, cut back to about an inch above the soil level, keep them watered and they’ll bounce back with tender new shoots.

Make sure your plants have enough water throughout the warm season, especially those growing in pots, where the soil dries out much quicker. The best time to water is early morning or late afternoon when the plants are not in direct sun. 

Put a bowl of fresh water out in your garden to serve as a birdbath and supply drinking water for birds and insects. This can help our little wild friends cope with the heat of the summer days.

If last year you grew plants that self-seed easily, some areas of your garden or pots might be a bit overcrowded at the moment. Transplant some of the plants to another location or pot them on to give to friends. And in the same way that the plants we want to harvest are putting on a lot of new growth, so are all sorts of other weeds. Keep on top of them to avoid overcrowding and competition for water and nutrients in your pots and herb beds.

SOW

Sow annual and/or fast growing herbs like basil, shiso, dill, summer savoury, parsley and coriander. Coriander tends to bolt quickly when grown this time of the year, but although you get a short harvest window for the leaves, the flowers and seeds that follow are also great! There's also still time to sow seeds for edible and medicinal flowers like borage, pot marigold, zinnia, viola, sunflowers and nasturtiums.

INNER GARDENING

The garden is also a wonderful reflection of what’s going on in our lives; herbs aren’t the only things that grow and blossom, we do too! Here are some questions to consider around how June can be used to support your body, heart and mind alongside your pots, plots and gardens this month:

Lots of new, colourful, abundant growth is coming through this month, what can be celebrated in your life? What joys do you have? Bigger ones and smaller everyday ones? Could there be something new to take joy in? Noticing the smell of fresh blossom on your way to work? Spotting the elderflower in bloom from the train?

We have sown seeds for the last few months and now know what has germinated and what didn’t do so well. Are there any areas of your life, work or relationships that have healthy shoots of new growth and areas that aren’t growing in the way you’d hoped? Just naming and knowing what these are can be really supportive to shifting them later in the season if change is needed.

Some herbs, like calendula and chamomile, have better harvests the more attention you give them. Are there any small acts of self care you can do to support your growth? Think tiny and do-able. Drink more water as the weather heats up? Reach for your toes regularly to stretch out your legs and back? Turn your phone off for an afternoon? Tell yourself ‘I’m doing a wonderful job at this...’ each day for a week?

June is a month of fast growth but also the time plants are settling, finding their roots and getting established. What would it be like to stop, feel your feet on the earth and take a deep breath at some point this month?

Taking a moment to stop and be in our bodies and nature makes a huge difference to our mental, emotional and physical health, which in turn will support the growth and harvest in your garden. If just one of these suggestions speaks to you try it out and, to finish with a final gardening metaphor, see what blossoms...

Words - Camila B & Amy B // Pictures - Camila B

The beauty of Elderflower // How to make elderflower cordial

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Written by Hackney Herbal trainee Amy.

The blossoming of the Elder tree (Sambucus nigra) marks the beginning of summer. Elder's sweet white flowers come into bloom from late May and bring with them the promise of sunshine, long, warm evenings, abundance and harvest. Having been used for centuries, elderflower has a rich history in folklore and is still used by herbalists, foragers and plant lovers today. For us, making Elderflower cordial from this sacred tree is a celebration of all that has been in the dark of winter and all the warmth and light summer promises.

Native to the British Isles, Elderflower was once called The Queen of Herbs and The Elder Mother. It was said to be polite to ask her permission before cutting the tree down and was often hung above doors and planted around homes for protection. Traditionally all parts of the tree were used, from making furniture and dying clothes to treating inflammation, sickness, arthritis, insect bites and grief. It is said the famous physician Boerhaave didn't pass an Elder tree without tipping his hat to its many healing properties! Modern herbalists use its flowers in summer for hay fever and the berries in autumn and winter as protection against colds and flu and to support immunity (recipes to come!). The elder is a wonderful example of a plant that supports us with different properties as the seasons change and we become susceptible to different illnesses. 

For the next few weeks, a delicious aromatic cordial can be made from these beautiful flowers. It is easy to make and foraging for it along London's canals, parks and green spaces is an opportunity to notice the abundance of wilderness and nature around us. Pick the flower head in the morning on a dry day (preferably from higher up the tree where no animal or human has got to it!). Forage sustainably by only taking a small amount from each tree so there’s enough flowers to turn into berries in autumn and remember to ask its permission first! Happy and responsible foraging and let us know how you go on facebook and instagram.

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Recipe:

  • 25-30 elderflower heads
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • 600g caster sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of honey  
  • 3 unwaxed lemons
  • 2 unwaxed oranges
  • 40g citric acid (This is to help the cordial keep longer, I prefer not to use this and instead freeze it in ice cubes or plastic bottles and defrost anytime within a year)

To make:

  1. Gently wash off any bugs from your foraged elderflower heads

  2. Pour the boiling water into a large bowl or pan, add the sugar and stir until it dissolves and leave to cool

  3. Slice the lemons and oranges and put them into the sugary water

  4. Add citric acid if using

  5. Submerge all flowers head down into the water

  6. Leave in a cool place for 24 hours stirring once or twice

  7. Strain though a muslin cloth, tea towel or any clean cotton material and transfer to sterilised glass bottles or plastic bottles for the freezer

  8. Enjoy this delicious sweet cordial with ice, water or added to cocktails!  

 Words and images Amy Birtles.

Herb Highlight // Lemon balm

Botanical name: Melissa officinalis

Native to: S. Europe, Asia and North Africa. Naturalised in Britain.

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It's always a joy to see lemon balm springing back to life, a gentle reassurance that spring is definitely here! It is a herb that has always been associated with raising spirits and lifting the heart.The Arabian herbalist Avicenna (980-1037) said that Lemon balm "causeth the mind and heart to be merry". Recent research has shown that it can be an effective remedy for anxiety, depression and insomnia owing to its mild sedative properties. It's also a great herb for bees which go wild for its small white flowers and its botanical names is derived from the Greek word Melissa which means 'bee'. 

Our favourite way to enjoy lemon balm is in a hot infusion but you can also preserve it with honey or sugar to extend its short season. It can be enjoyed as a dried herb but it does lose some of its flavour during the drying process. Have a go at these simple recipes. 

Lemon balm honey

Fill a jam jar half full with fresh leaves and then fill with honey. Leave to infuse for 4 weeks and then strain. Use for deserts and cooking or have a spoonful in a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon. 

Lemon balm syrup

Dissolve 100g sugar with 100ml water in a saucepan on a low heat and then simmer lightly for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add in a generous handful of fresh leaves. Leave to infuse with the lid on the pan for a few house or overnight and then strain out the leaves. Use to sweeten drinks.

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Herb Highlight // Stinging Nettle

Botanical name: Urtica dioica

Native to: Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America

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A wonderful wild herb that is abundant during the early spring. Sometimes a bit tricky to pick if you haven’t come prepared with long rubber gloves, but well worth the stings. Bursting with vitamins A & C, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium nettle makes for an excellent brew. Try it as a detoxing herbal infusion or add it into soups and stews (which takes away the sting) for an iron rich boost. It's also a good infusion to try for your skin and can be used to remedy  the symptoms of acne and eczema. Nettle grows wild so you can forage for it in woodlands, hedgerows and other people's gardens! Always pick the fresh leaves at the tip of healthy looking plants. Always remember to check the foraging guidelines for picking plants in public and private space. 

Nettle Hair Rinse  

You can use nettle to make a clarifying hair rinse to remove product build up in your hair, nourish your scalp and condition your hair. It's also suitable for itchy and irritated scalps and those with sensitive skin.

1. Pick a big handful of fresh nettle leaves - the fresh  tips are the best

2. It's always good to rinse herbs that your pick from publicly accessible spaces

3. Gently warm roughly 2 cups of water in a saucepan and throw in your nettles

4. Bring the heat up and simmer for 30 minutes

5. Allow to cool and then strain out the nettles

6. Use straight away by pouring over and brushing through wet hair

6. Rinse out

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