In clouds of creamy frothy flowers
The Meadowsweet in summer’s seen
In ditch and bank it wafts its scent
Bride wort, or Dolloff, Meadow Queen
To Druids ‘twas a sacred herb
This frangrant flower flavoured mead
Culpepper wrote this charmed plant
Stopped too much blood in ancient screed
- Sheena Blackhall
Height: Up to 1.5m
Leaves: Stem leaves dark green, hairless above, mostly with white felty hairs underneath. Pinnate with 5-11 fine toothed leaflets
Flowers: June to September. Small and white or creamy-yellow and in large, frothy clusters or flower heads known as cymes. Each single flower is only 5-10mm in diameter. Each flower has long stamen giving a fuzzy appearance.
Root and stem: A creeping root stock sends up a reddish, angular stem
Habitat: Found in damp meadows, drainage ditches and alongside lakes and rivers. Distribution: Britain and Ireland, temperate parts of Europe and Asia. Introduced to North America.
Parts used for food: Leaves, flowers, roots.
Harvest time: June to September
Also known as Queen of the meadow, Pride of the Meadow, Meadow-wort, Meadow queen, Lady of the Meadow, Dollof, Meadsweet, and Bridewort. Meadowsweet grows in damp meadows, drainage ditches and also alongside lakes and rivers.
When it comes to foraging a good rule of thumb to abide by:
If in doubt, leave it out
Known as Meadowsweet,not because it grows in meadows, but because it was used to flavour mead. Meadowsweet was a forerunner of Aspirin (1897 Felix Hoffman), prior to Willow Bark. Famous as a honey-wine herb. Meadwort, or Medwort, was one of fifty ingredients in a drink called ‘Save’ mentioned by English author Geoffrey Chaucer in a Knight’s Tale. English physician and herbalist Nicholas Culpeper also recommended a leaf of Meadowsweet in a cup of claret wine to give it a “fine relish”.
A favourite of Queen Elizabeth 1st Meadowsweet was used to scour milk churns. Also known as Queen of the Meadows/Brideswort, it was once used in bridal bouquets in summer months, for a happy marriage. Also known as Courtship & Matrimony – the scent of the flowers before & after bruising where likened to the change of a relationship before & after marriage, also thought to reference the sweet smelling flowers contrast with the sharper, bitter- smelling leaves. Drinks made from Meadowsweet were considered to be a love potion.
Used to flavour Mead & Ale it has even been discovered in Bronze Age burial sites in Wales & Scotland (2000-700BC). Today, Meadowsweet is also one of thirty herbs and spices added to the popular Norfolk punch cordial drink, originally made by the monks of Norfolk, England.
Containing Salicylic Acid, flavone glycosides, essential oil and tannins. Known for its diuretic properties to help the body get rid of excess fluid and salt, can treat fever, flu, the common cold and rheumatism. A tea can be made out of the flowers to help stomach ulcers and headaches. Meadowsweet has also been thought of as the go-to herb for indigestion, flatulence, gastric ulcers, gastric reflux, liver disorders, cystitis, diarrhoea in children, rheumatism, cellulitis, bladder stones, and oedema.
Despite its acclaimed success, if you cannot take Aspirin for any reason, then it is advised that you don’t take Meadowsweet. All salicylic-containing plants should be used with caution given that salicylic medicines can thin the blood and cause internal bleeding.
If drying to use this should be done quickly and then storage should be in an airtight container, as the relatively benign coumarin can be converted into the more toxic dicoumarol in the presence of some airborne moulds, (thanks Mark@Galloway Wild Foods).
I fancied trying to make a cheesecake, here is the recipe:
30 mins plus 1 hour and overnight chilling
10g Meadowsweet Flowers (Freshly picked, debugged and processed)
250g Ginger Biscuits
100g Butter (non-salted) melted
600g Soft Cheese
100g Icing Sugar
284ml pot of double cream
To make the base, butter and line a 23cm loose-bottomed tin with baking parchment.
Put the digestive biscuits in a plastic food bag and crush to crumbs using a wooden spoon or rolling pin.
Transfer the crumbs to a bowl, and then pour over the melted butter.
Mix thoroughly until the crumbs are completely coated. Tip them into the prepared tin and press firmly down into the base to create an even layer. Chill in the fridge for 1 hr to set firmly.
Top tip for debugging the Meadowsweet, as running it under water will destroy the delicate, honey/almond flavour. Place the freshly picked Meadowsweet under an upside down bucket and prop the bottom up slightly with a twig, creating an area where light will be detected by the bugs, leave for a while whilst they make their way out towards the light.
Remove the Meadowsweet flowers from the stem until you have 10 grams worth (takes around an hour)
Pour the double cream into a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until it’s just starting to thicken to soft peaks.
Place the soft cheese and icing sugar in a separate bowl, then beat for 2 mins with an electric mixer until smooth and starting to thicken, it will get thin and then start to thicken again.
Tip in the double cream and fold it into the soft cheese mix. You’re looking for it to be thickened enough to hold its shape when you tip a spoon of it upside down. If it’s not thick enough, continue to whisk.
Add the meadowsweet flowers and fold into the mix
Smooth the top of the cheesecake down with the back of a dessert spoon or spatula.
Leave to set in the fridge overnight.
Bring the cheesecake to room temperature about 30 mins before serving.
On a final note, Should you wish to talk to the faeries or acquire the gift of Second Sight, a good sniff of Meadowsweet flowers will grant your wishes. Beware though, the heddy scent was believed to induce a deep sleep from which you may not awaken, or if you did you may experience fits afterwards.
Harford, R (2019) Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Britain and Ireland
https://gallowaywildfoods.com/ Accessed 05/08/2022
Iverson, C (2019) The Hedgerow Apothecary