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  1. One of the most common plants I saw growing wild on my recent trip to the Faroe Islands was Angelica. Whether it survived the ice age here, as it did in Iceland, I am not yet sure. But there is evidence that it was harvested by the Vikings on Iceland and used for trade. Angelica was so valuable during the medieval period in Iceland that there was a specific law to prevent Angelica theft in the first law book.

    The whole plant has been used medicinally for centuries across the world, as an expectorant and for stomach upsets, and there is some evidence that it acts as a mild stimulant. Historically, it was held in high esteem as a cure for all ills, blood purification and to ward off the plague. The flavour of Angelica is slightly musky and it has a long history of being used to flavour alcohols and liqueurs, being a key ingedient in Vermouth and Gin. 

    angelica

    This picture shows Angelica growing wild in Torshovan, behind the other ubiquitous wild plant, Marsh Marigolds (or King cups ... Caltha palustris). Marsh marigolds have been used medicinally, to cure warts and fits, and the leaves can be eaten like spinach, but the whole plant is an irritant and best avoided. It was used historically in May Day festivals.

    The other surprise herb for me on the Faroes was Sweet Cicely, with its dainty, fresh green leaves and sweet smelling flowers. The whole plant is edible; the leaves are good in salads, with a fresh aniseedy / liquorice flavour, the roots can be used like parsnips, it is a good natural sweetener and combines especially well with rhubarb. Gerard, agreeing with Culpeper on it's value for lifting the spirits, states that the roots, boiled and dressed with oil and vinegar are   “…very good for old people that are dull and without courage; it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth their lust and strength.” It is a key ingredient in Chartreuse liqueur.

    Medicinally, it was, like Angelica, used as a plague herb. It has expectorant properties and is a mildly stimulating anti-spasmodic. Tea made from the leaves has been used to relieve period pains. The roots anti-septic properties, in a decoction, have been used for snake bites and as a poultice on septic wounds. the sweet smelling seeds can be chewed and were ground and added to beeswax polish for their perfume.

    sweetcicely

     

    TTFN

    Bunny

  2. Here in Yorkshire the elderflowers are just right to gather for drying or making cordial, champagne, syrup ... whatever. In fact now is a great time for harvesting and drying any cultivated and wild herbs. You will find foraging courses being offered everywhere now to help you identify wild plants, and be sure not to overpick or uproot the plants (against the law!) ... and obviously avoid endangered species on the protected list.

    The simplest way to dry elderflowers, and save them for winter when their anti-viral and anti-inflamatory properties are useful to help with colds, flu, sinus infections and winter aches and pains, is to pick the flower heads and shake off any beasties and bugs, and lay them on a sheet of cardboard. Place the cardboard in a warm, dry, shady place with good ventilation and leave until the creamy flowers are dry and can be rubbed easily from their stems. they can then be stored in airtight containers for use in teas, wines, cordials etc all year round.

    Many recipes for elderflower cordial contain citric acid as a preservative ... this can help preserve your cordial but some people have concerns about the way it is manufactured ... if you don't want to use it, add a couple more lemons and try freezing the cordial.

    There are hundreds of recipes online ... here is one I use

    30 elderflower heads

    1 litre water

    1kg sugar

    2 or 3 lemons (or add a lime or some orange)

    30g citric acid

    Shake any beasties and insects off the flowerheads and place in a large pan or bowl with sliced lemons. Boil the water with the sugar and citric acid, if using, until dissolved. Allow to cool slightly and then pour over the elderflowers and lemons, cover with a clean tea towel or similar and leave to infuse for 3-4 days in the fridge. Strain through muslin and seal in sterilised bottles. 

    Try adding a lime or an orange for a different flavour.

    elderflower

    Elderflowers can also be added to vodka or gin and left to infuse for a few days. Elderflower syrup is great added to ice cream and with gooseberries.

    If you miss the chance to pick and dry your own, you can always buy some dried ones from me 

    TTFN

    Bunny

  3. Artisan Gins are the current "must have" drink ... and the "botanicals" (herbs and spices" in many expensive commercial Gins are closely guarded secrets. The Herb Boat has carefully selected a range of popular botanicals for you to magically transform vodka into your own delicious Artisan (or Bathtub) Gin. Full instructions included.

    Available on the towpath or by mail order ... contact me for a stock list 

    dscn1599

    ttfn

    Bunny

  4. There seems to be something exciting going on in Hebden Bridge every weekend ... festivals, parades, workshops, exhibitions ... it really is an inspiring place to be. I will be trading here again tomorrow, 30th of June, weather permitting.

    We also met fellow boat trader Crafts Afloat and will be trading with them and some other local craftspeople over the weekend of the 6th and 7th June when the legendary "Hand Made Parade" takes place.

     http://handmadeparade.co.uk/hebden-bridge-parade/

    Crafts Afloat not only sells exquisite handmade glass jewellry, but also offers a range of craft workshops and parties on board "The Crafty Snail" narrowboat.

    dscn1514

     

    http://www.craftsafloat.com/

    We traded together last weekend in the blustery sunshine 

    dscn1518

    Hope to see you there

    TTFN

    Bunny

     

     

  5. .Well, yesterday saw the launch of my new "Taste the World" exotic spice and herb blends ... each 60ml jar containing a burst of GMO free, non-irradiated flavour from far off lands, bringing the world to your kitchen. 

    I will be adding more but currently have; 


    Warm, floral flavours of North Africa in Ras El Hanout,
    Fragrant Harissa Spice from Tunisia, 
    Punchy Cajun Spice from Louisiana, 
    Hot but mellow Jamaican Goat Curry spices (equally good with lamb and veg), 
    Birmingham / Pakistani fusion flavours of Balti Spices
    Desert flavours of Arabian Z'atar
    Eye-wateringly hot Jerk Seasoning, marrying the flavours of Africa and the Caribbean, 
    And a fragrant taste of summer in the Thai Stir Fry blend

    dscn1512 (2)


    Mmmmmm ... more coming soon. Available only on the towpath at the moment, £2 a jar but mail order soon

    TTFN Bunny

  6. I am a member of a wonderful organisation called The Roving Canal Traders Association. Members sell all sorts of things; crafts, artwork, homebrew equipment, hand-made jewellry, candles, sweets, pens, antiques, boating equipment, teas, cakes  ... the list is endless .... oh, and HERBS and SPICES of course!!

    They support all of us who trade on the canals and rivers, and have, in recent years, started to organise Floating Markets around the canal system.

    It is no mean feat to get a group of boats in one place at the same time, and the next Floating Market will be at Burton On Trent over the late May bank holiday. If you are in the area, take a look .... you will certainly find something of interest.

    There is a link to the website on the poster.

    burton

    Meanwhile, I hope to be trading in Hebden Bridge over the Bank Holiday weekend ... watch this space!!

    TTFN Bunny

  7. Custard is one of those Marmite things ... you either love it or hate it .... here on the Herb Boat we are BIG custard fans .... sweet and savoury (oh yes, you can make savory custards). 

    Vanilla custard is popular, but you can infuse your milk and cream with almost any herb or spice. The recent Masterchef finals featured a Star Anise infused custard. Bay leaves were often used in sweet dishes in the past, and Bay custard (or even Bay Leaf Ice-cream) is enjoying a renewed popularity. Just infuse 3 or 4 bay leaves in your warm milk and cream mix for 15 minutes, and remove before adding egg yolks. 

     bay custard

    Or how about a savoury, cheesy bread and butter pudding with Rosemary or Basil infused custard ....

    Or add dried flowers or petals .... Lavender, Rose .... the possbilities are endless ....

    Herb Boat re-usable tea / spice bags can be used so you don't have to strain the milk / cream infusion. These handy little bags are made from unbleached cotton and are £1 for two bags.

    There are many basc custard recipes online, this one from the BBC website gives basic proportions .... you can replace some of the milk with sngle cream, and omit the vanilla and sugar if you want to try savoury custards.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/homemadecustard_3102

  8. dscn0610

     

    Coltsfoot, "Britsh Tobacco", is flowering well on the Rochdale Canal ... and soon will get it's leaves. A great time to pick and dry your own ... or you can purchase both leaves and flowers from The Herb Boat ( Flowers 15g for £1 or Leaves 20g for £1 p&p £1.50) 

    Coltfoot has long been regarded as nature's best cough remedy. Taken either as a tea, or, bizarrely, smoked, it has expectorant properties and has been used to treat asthma and bronchitis. Coltsfoot forms the basis of many commercial cough mixtures and herbal "tobacco substitutes". The Herb Boat "English Haze" herb blend combines Coltsfoot leaves wth other native herbs, like Mugwort, Elderflowers, Mullein, that have been smoked, and a smidgeon of honey. These can be drunk as a tea because smoking is blatently bad for you. Contact me for a full stock list until I finish virtually filling the virtual shop.

    Used externally, it is said to sooth skin irritations like eczema and insect bites. Magically, it is used in love and tranquility spells.

    It is an unusual plant in that it flowers before the leaves appear. 

    coltsfoot2

    TTFN 

    Bunny

    The legal stuff .... please read my statement on the Medical Use of Herbs and Spices. 

  9. So The Herb Boat has made National Television ... I know ... how exciting!! 

    Well, I am only in the background, for about two seconds. BBC's The One Show were in Manchester on "The Vote Boat", doing a piece about registering to vote. It was so busy at Castlefields, they had to moor against me and clamber over my boat to get the film crew ashore! 

    And remember, it doesn't matter who you vote for, the government still gets in 

    TTFN Bunny

    www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05qtp3w/the-one-show-20042015

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