Saturday, 12 February 2011

4 things to do with chickweed (except composting it)

I was up at Canalside Community Food earlier today for a work morning (a beautiful, coming out of hibernation for spring kind of morning!). As well as coming home with a good dose of fresh air and exercise, I also brought back a bundle of chickweed which grows up in abundance (unwanted) in the polytunnels. To gardeners it's a weed generally known as a prolific nuisance, but to herb lovers both ancient and modern it's known for it's potent healing powers.

I know chickweed (Stellaria Media) best for it's soothing and cooling properties for the skin. I use it with chamomile in a soothing salve for itchy skin that I make for Amiya. As well as being useful for skin complaints, it has, according to the book 'Hedgerow Medicine', an affinity for the eyes, lungs and chest. I also love some of the alternative names the book mentions: chick wittles and clucken wort especially.

The chickweed has been flying in the kitchen the last couple of hours, resulting in:
  • Chickweed vinegar - suggested in the above book and recommended to add to the bath to help relieve itchy skin and restore it's natural pH balance. Other herbal vinegars I've made involve leaving the herb to infuse for 2-3 weeks in the vinegar - but in this case the recipe suggested just putting the herb and vinegar in the blending and then straining.
  • Chickweed pesto - I made dandelion pesto a few years ago (hmm, a bit dubious that was!) and will be trying chickweed pesto on my pasta tonight. The leaves can also be eaten as salad.
  • Chickweed oil - this is now infusing on my window sill, so let's hope for some more sunny days! I will use this in salve. [Update - see post comments. Next time I will hot macerate].
  • Chickweed tincture - and this is infusing in a cupboard for a couple of weeks, again I will use this in salve.
Apparently it's also a good emergency remedy for itches, bites and stings - you just bruise it and use it! (If you're not sure what it looks like there are some pictures on Flickr. It feels good to have some potions brewing about the house again after the winter months, now I just have to remember to give them a daily shake!

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