I’ve not had much chance to get out much lately but in between showers, I’ve managed a few small harvests. Last trip out I picked some Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) which I started straight away as per the guidance at The Herbarium, which pointed out that the flowers can spoil quite quickly. Some fine chopping was required to get it to go into the right ratio of alcohol as the flowers are quite springy but I got there in the end. The resulting tincture is subtle but definitely floral. However, it was so subtle it failed to take the edge off the cheap vodka I used so I’d probably use a better quality next time. The Eyebright (Euphrasia spp.) on the other hand was stunning! Almost immediately, it smelled of vanilla-y chocolate but as it steeped I thought it was developing a bitter back note to it. When I bottled it up the other day I had a wee sip – Wow! Coconut! Strong and sweet and aromatic and, if there’s a bitterness about it, it’s the delicious bite of dark chocolate. A real eye-opener (pun very much intended!).
Speaking of punnets… a friend gave us a punnet of Bilberries (Vaccinium myrlillus) she had picked and they sat on the bunker for a day or two, seriously at risk of going to waste. So I bottled them up with some vodka; quick and easy. I did think about adding some sugar or honey but I’m not really much of a sweet tooth and I wasn’t sure of quantities and, well, straight vodka it was. I find soft fruits can be a bit tart though and, what with the cheap vodka, I wasn’t really holding out much hope. I reckoned I could sweeten it up later or something. It doesn’t need it. It’s got a fruity sweetness all of its own. If you like things sweet you could add lemonade maybe? But I don’t think it needs it. I haven’t decanted it because I want to do something with the berries and I haven’t decided what yet. I just had a wee sip there just now to remind myself of the flavour and it just keeps getting better and better; liquid, alcoholic jammy yummyness. I think I’ll try that with any other soft fruit that comes my way and see what happens.
I have two other projects on the go at the moment; both of which I’ve been wanting to do for ages. At long long last I’ve got my first batch of St John’s Wort oil (Hypericum perforatum) on the go. It’s sitting in its jar on my sunniest window sill and is starting to go red (well more rosé really) but when I stir it that gets diluted and there’s only a tinge of pink to it. I think it obviously needs some more time. The other one is nettle seed tincture (Urtica dioica). I’ve been inspecting the nettles daily to see if the flowers have set seed and finally, they looked just right. Following the advice from Henriette’s website I collected them on the stalk and hung them up to dry; yes using gloves. When they were dry however, I managed to take all the leaves off and sort through the seeds with bare hands. They were a wee bit tingly but not in a horrible way at all. So they’re all in vodka now too. I’ve never used nettle seeds before but Kiva Rose is a big fan and I’m looking forward to getting to know another aspect of this amazing plant. The Bilberry lady also gave us some Chanterelles and, yep you guessed it, they’re now in vodka. Again, I’m not holding out much hope because of the cheap vodka but, you never know, it might be another surprise. I love this time of year when the hedgerows are so full of potential harvests. If only the rain would stop I could get out and find some more goodies…
Tags: Bilberry, Chanterelle, Euphrasia, Eyebright, Henriette, Hypericum perforatum, Kiva Rose, Nettle, Red Clover, soft fruit, St John's Wort, The Herbarium, Trifolium pratense, Urtica dioica, Vaccinium myrtillus, vodka