19th September 2014

With a few days break to explore the banks of the Chesterfield Canal, here’s a lovely plant we’re bound to see along the damp paths and borders- the lovely Meadowsweet. If you scrunch up the leaves I think they smell of ‘Germolene’ but the cream, frothy flowers, around from June to September, smell of almonds and were often strewn on floors to sweeten the scent of rooms. The 17th century herbalist, Gerard, writes, in the spelling of his time : “The leaves and flours of Meadowswet farre excelle all other strewing herbs for to deck up houses, to strawe in chambers, halls and banqueting-houses in the summer time for the smell thereof makes the heart merry and joyful and delight the senses”. Meadowsweet is one of 50 ingredients of a drink called ‘save’ mentioned in Chaucer’s ‘The Knights Tale’- it was called Medwort in his 14th century and it has often been added to wine or beer. When cows grazed more in water-meadows and unimproved, damp grasslands the taste of Meadowsweet was said to be detectable, and enjoyed in the milk they gave. Like willow-bark, the root of Meadowsweet contains the painkilling property that aspirin was developed.  Talking of frothy, scented strewing plants, here also is the beautiful bright yellow Ladies Bedstraw. Smelling of honey as it grows, and new-mown hay when dried, this flower was used to stuff mattresses, and especially those of women about to give birth, from whence it gets its name. 

The lovely scented Meadowsweet an old 'strewing herb'

The lovely scented Meadowsweet an old ‘strewing herb’

Sulphur-yellow flowers of Ladies Bedstraw, used to stuff the mattresses of women in childbirth.

Sulphur-yellow flowers of Ladies Bedstraw, used to stuff the mattresses of women in childbirth.

Conditions: Cloudy, dry day Temperature: Max 17- Min 14C

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