In the Herb Garden this week no.8 (18.7.20)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Some of you will recognise the name of James Wong as a gardening writer and broadcaster and he is so enthusiastic about this week’s herb that I can’t resist quoting what he says:
‘With a constant succession of frothy white flower plumes held high on graceful stems from May until the first frosts, there is no doubt that this native wildflower is super-attractive, and the bees certainly seem to agree. But to me all of these benefits pale in comparison with their flavour. Imagine the fresh, floral aroma of elderflower but backed with deeper, richer almondy notes – like lychee meets marzipan. Why it isn’t a more popular dessert flavouring all over the world, I will never know.’
In fact, the name Meadowsweet is thought to derive from the plant’s use in flavouring mead, a drink made from fermented honey, and it was also popular as a strewing herb to perfume rooms.
The sap contains a chemical of the same group as salicylic acid, an ingredient of aspirin, which explains why the plant was also used as an anti-inflammatory to relieve the pain of rheumatic joint and muscle conditions as well as for fevers. Meadowsweet is still used today as a key remedy for helping acid-related problems such as heartburn and gastric ulcer – come and find this generous plant flowering in Dr Darwin’s Medicine Chest Garden now.