If you’ve walked anywhere a bit damp recently (June to September) – road verges, ditches, rivers or canals or through damp meadows, you can’t have failed to spot or smell Meadowsweet. The tall (1- 2 m) cream-coloured dense clusters of flowers have an aroma described as sweet almond, hay and honey with a hint of something medical, especially when crushed. In Tudor times, it was used as a strewing herb – thrown on the floor to be walked on and mask unpleasant smells. The original name was “mead wort” as it was used to flavour mead. Numerous herbal uses include treating colds, respiratory problems, acid indigestion, peptic ulcers, arthritis and rheumatism, skin diseases, and diarrhoea. It can also be used in many culinary ways by today’s forager.
This plant contains the chemicals used to make aspirin – named after its old botanical name Spiraea ulmaria. Unlike Aspirin, it does not have the caustic side effects on the stomach lining, however, if you are allergic to Aspirin (or have alicylate or sulphite sensitivity) you should avoid consuming it.
Culinary Uses for Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet can be used in almost any recipe that uses Elderflower. With that season coming to an end, we have a replacement. Pick the flowers on a sunny morning for the maximum flavour and don’t wash them. Just give each head a good shake to remove any insects. The flowers can be dried then stored in paper bags to retain their flavour as well as pollen and natural yeasts. Some recipes use the leaves, others the flowers or either.
- Tea – made with leaves and / or flowers – https://www.anniesremedy.com/chart_remedy.php?rem_ID=345
- Beer – made with the leaves – http://tarragonnthyme.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/meadowsweet-beer.html
- Champagne –https://www.thebotanist.com/articles/meadowsweet-fizzzzz
- Cordial – http://monicawilde.com/meadowsweet-cordial/ – This could also be used as a sauce over vanilla ice cream, mixed into a sorbet or added to Sloe Gin!
- Aperitif – made with Claret – http://creativeliving.fr.yuku.com/topic/3328/Meadowsweet-Recipes#.WVvWA-m1vcs
Meadowsweet goes very well with summer fruits like Peaches, Raspberries and Strawberries. If you live in northern parts of Britain, you can add Sweet Cicely to replace some of the sugar.
- Sorbet – https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/meadowsweet-sorbet-recipe
- Meadowsweet and compote of cherries – http://www.hub-uk.com/foodpages40/recipe1956.htm
- Fritters made with the flowers don’t need sugar to counter the bitterness.
- Meadowsweet and redcurrant ripple ice cream – https://foodandforagehebrides.wordpress.com/tag/meadowsweet/ –
- Panna Cotta – https://wildcook.wordpress.com/tag/meadowsweet-pannacotta/
- Jams – the flowers can be added to jams made with summer fruits (Strawberry, Raspberry, Apricots etc.), giving them a subtle almond flavour.
- Turkish Delight