30 islanders, visitors and children met on Sunday the 30th of May for an afternoon of discovery into the food and medicines growing around us on Eigg, led by Ian Boyd. Ian is a, herbalist and countryside ranger from Glasgow and took us for a gentle stroll through the Lodge gardens and finishing up through the Manse woods to the beach.
On this short walk I was overwhelmed at the massive amount of uses for the most common of plants, flowers and trees that can be used medicinally or just as a refreshing drink. The only thing I struggled with was the immense amount of information to take in over a two hour period!! I think it helps if you already know the plant then adding the beneficial properties, this way I remembered the most.
The most exciting facts I found were mostly of the edible funnily enough…. Lime tree leaves can be used in a salad giving a far more nutritious option than lettuce. Trees have an extremely deep root system which allows them to reach and absorb trace minerals far underground. These trace minerals are then carried, and stored, through out the entire tree, including the leaves. Lady Smock or otherwise known as the Cuckoo flower, their small leaves are edible and can be added for a peppery zing. If more zing is required the then wild garlic leaves and flower heads are ideal. Common Sorrel is a well known edible treat but a new addition for me was Wood Sorrel which looks like clover leaves and can be eaten in salads too but only use sparingly as it contains certain oxalates which are not too good for the body in large quantities. Any of those ingredients added to a salad or sandwich sounds delicious to me!
Meadowsweet can be used in many ways, it can be a gentle antiseptic wash for calming and clearing skin rashes,
eczema and chickenpox (Chickweed can also be used for skin problems). Its therapeutic values are very much like aspirin although unlike aspirin the herb is not associated with any side effects. It has also been in use to give an especially aromatic bouquet to port, claret and mead, and can be used as a flavouring/sweetener to any drink especially good if you make sloe gin.
Lime tree leaves or dried heather flower heads can be used as a refreshing tea. Just about every kind of seaweed appears to be edible and best months to gather is in May and June. Thyme if made into an essential oil can be used as an antiseptic in the kitchen rather than chemicals. Sage can be used as a mouthwash. The wild garlic has to be the winner for having the most uses from salads to therapeutic properties.
As with all home remedies it is your own responsibility to thoroughly check and identify your ingredients and recipes before consumption. If you are going to use wild plants for medicinal purposes and are currently on medication always check with your doctor, NEVER mix the two.
There are so many more simple ingredients and alternative medicines growing abundantly. Most recipes have been used for centuries and becoming more commonly acceptable again these days. I look forward to continuing on with a natural discovery which I think there is a lifetime of learning involved! Whilst sifting through wild flower information I came across this and had to add it in as it appealed to my sense of humour!
Primroses are pollinated at night by moths attracted by the bright petal colours. Hundreds of years ago, these plants were grown for their medicinal and sweetening qualities, for example, it was believed that stem juice rubbed onto the face removed spots and freckles! Legend says that Primroses sprang from the body of Paralisos (the Primrose’s ancient name) after he died of a broken heart. It was also alleged that if children ate the flowers they would see the fairy folk! It was lucky to bring 13 Primroses indoors but unlucky to bring in only 1. Indeed, to bring indoors less than a handful would surely endanger one’s ducklings!! Victorians used to plant Primroses on the graves of children, and herbalists used to use the root to make an expectorant. If you keep chickens and see a single primrose, dance round it three times in order to avert ill omens – otherwise a single Primrose will lead to bad egg laying. A Primrose blooming in winter is an evil omen. Romans used the plant to treat malaria. One primrose laid on your doorstep on the 1st of May will keep the witches away.