ELDERFLOWER & STRAWBERRY MINT
We have used these two remarkable ingredients to make March's gin. The flowers of the Elder are harvested in early summer by hand and the first growth of the strawberry mints are also harvested in early summer, to capture the youth and vitality of the mint. We then lay them out in our drying room so we can use the botanics at a later date - such as now, to remind us that Spring and Summer will eventually come - that light is on its way - hold fast and rejoice in the rays that will soon arrive.
For me however, the plants hold so much more - let me share with you how I feel about them:
Elderflower is well-known to people as a floral aroma and makes a lovely cordial and flavour for a gin - but what most people don’t know is that this tree was sacred to our ancients - steeped in folklore, legend and magic. The empty stem was a ready made flute and was used to play music to the spirits/Faeries of the plant kingdom. For me it is one of THE most important trees and is a symbol of Mother Earth herself - the Elder - if one should ever seed itself in your garden or near to you, count it as a blessing.
It is a whole medicine-chest with the leaves being used as a ointment for bruises and sprains; the blossom as elderflower tea for cold and flu, with the red berries I make a tincture as a winter immune system booster and for the children I make elderberry ice lollies - who said herbal power can’t be fun! Like everything in Nature though, there has to be a huge amount of respect; never cut this tree or bring it into your house and especially don’t burn the wood on an open fire as the smoke contains a natural form of cyanide. A tree a book could be written about and one I find hard to summarise - in short though her beauty, perfume, medicine and power is to be in awe off - just look in detail of one of the flowering heads and you will see hundreds of individual flowers that erupt before you.
Strawberry mint - I have long loved this specific mint - we actually grow over 60 varieties and I love to involve children in smelling the mints to get them to interact with the plants directly - I will put in front of them varieties such as; pineapple, apple, banana, strawberry, chewing gum and chocolate and ask them to pick their favourite - it is such fun. Strawberry and Chocolate always remain a firm favourite! I love the strawberry mint because, if you crush the leaves, they add a wild strawberry scent - not so sweet as an actual strawberry with only a very delicate background note of mint - it is very subtle. It makes a good herbal tea but I love making an early summer strawberry detox water drink - simple put fresh strawberries, lime and fresh strawberry mint into a glass of normal drinking water, let it infuse and drink and feel it wash away harmful toxins.