Monday, 21 January 2008
Meet the Greater Willow Herb aka "Codlins & Cream"
I have just found a photo I took of the Greater Willow Herb which grows wild in my garden. The country name for this plant is "Codlins and Cream", which is far prettier and easier to say than GWH! When I have worked out the "how" I shall make this my backing for the blog title. Richard Maybe has little to say about it (though there are two pages on its cousin, the Rosebay Willow Herb, which some people may know as "Fireweed"): "This is abundant in all kinds of damp places - riversides, ditches, marshes, woodland clearings, even at the foot of damp walls. The popular name "codlins-and-cream" was probably suggested by the petals, rosy on top (like codlins or cooking apples) with a trace of creamy whiteness beneath." Far from growing in a particularly damp place in my garden, it is beside the large fish pond in full sun, but I daresay this may count as a "damp place"!
The travelling library called this morning, and I was fortunate to find a copy of Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden. I have long been a fan of Ellis Peter's novels, though I have not read one recently. The book states the Willowherb's medicinal uses (according to Culpeper) as follows:
Medicinal: All the species of willowherbs have the same virtues, the 'most powerful' being the yellow willowherb (Epilobium lysimachia). The plants were prescribed for haemorrhages, migraine, dropsy, stomach and urinary disorders, asthma and whooping cough. As an ointment, they were used to treat skin inflammations and infections.
Culinary: Rosebay willowherb shoots were boiled and eaten like asparagus, and the leaves used as a tea substitute.
If you have a space for it, in a damp spot (at the back of a border, as it grows to 2m according to Marjory Blamey), it is worth sourcing it from a wild flower seed specialist.