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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  1. We still have some snow on the ground, but the sun is shining! Soon little chickweed should be able to reach out of the ground:) So you will be using the tincture in salve also? I have never done that! Interesting Elizabeth xx

  2. How lovely :) Yes, I use tincture more no more than about 5% of the total ingredients and add it just as the cooling salve mix is starting to go opaque, and whisk like mad.

  3. Thank you for explaining how you incorporate chickweed tincture into salve mix, Elizabeth:) Very interesting and something I might explore this year! Nice share xxx

  4. Let me know how you get on with your sun-infused oil, Elizabeth. I've always made a heated double infused oi and would be wary about a single sun infusion because of the high water content of chickweed.

  5. Hi Sarah, the oil failed for just that reason I think. That's the first time I've tried so in future I will also use the heated method. Thanks for mentioning it! Best wishes, Elizabeth

  6. That's great! I just pulled up a bunch that wasn't really perfect for salad anymore, it was starting to dry out a little the absence of water here in SF. I used to use it for salve a lot, but think I will make some vinegar out of it, which I've never tried. At the moment I have that itchy skin that sometimes comes from weeding. In the early spring, though, I love to add it to my salad.