Meadowsweet is just starting to flower in our British hedgerows. It is a wonderful herb, with a beautiful fragrance, which, in my opinion, easily rivals that of the Elderflower.
Meadowsweet is a herbaceous perennial shrub, native to Europe, but also found in North America. It enjoys damp conditions and grows abundantly throughout most of the UK in meadows, ditches, and beside roads and streams. It is also known as Lady of the Meadow, Queen of the Ditch and Bridewort among other names.
The name Meadowsweet is said to come, not from the fact that it grows in meadows as one would expect, but from its early use to flavour mead, evolving from Middle English Medewurte, as it appears in Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. We find in its long documented history, that it was valued as an important strewing herb in Elizabethan times, and was considered one of the most important herbs used by Druids. Meadowsweet has been used for colds, respiratory problems, acid indigestion, peptic ulcers, arthritis and rheumatism, skin diseases, and diarrhea.
In the mid nineteenth century Salicylic acid was isolated from Meadowsweet which lead to the later creation of aspirin. The word “aspirin” is derived from “spirin,” based on Meadowsweet’s Latin name, “Spiraea.” It is important to note that the general wisdom is that people who are sensitive to Salicylates (this includes some asthmatics) should avoid this herb, as should those who are taking warfarin, as there is the potential of an additive effect. I would also be prudent and avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.
How to Make Meadowsweet Cordial.
For this recipe you will need: Large bunch of Meadowsweet (about 50 heads), 2 Lemons, 500g sugar (split in 2) and 2 litres Water
Bring the water to a boil, and dissolve in 250g of the sugar and add the lemon juice. Then simply strip the open flowers from their stems and add to the water. I look to add a really good covering of flowers on top of the water.
Whilst still hot, decant the cordial into warm glass bottles, which have been sterilised in a warm oven for about 10 minutes. Be aware that adding the hot cordial to cold glass bottles may cause them to crack, so take care to ensure they are at similar temperatures. Seal, and allow to cool. You can then add a pretty label. The cordial will keep for 4-6 weeks in the fridge.