October Newsletter 2008

Hi and welcome to the October newsletter.

This will be the last one from me for this year as we have finished all the shows for the season – just the local markets left to do over the winter. Nessa, our resident medicinal herbalist, who makes all the products for the medicinal shop on our website, is going to take over writing the newsletter for three or four months over the winter period.

It’s quite busy at this time of year as we do the annual clear up. All the tunnels are emptied one at a time, swept out and then disinfected. It’s not a job I enjoy that much, to be honest, but the tunnels look great once all the herbs are tidily back inside.

I Have met a few people over the last few shows who use their herbs in interesting ways. The first one was at the National Amateur Gardening Show where a lady was buying pennyroyal to put with her new potatoes. She would make more than she needed and the following morning fry the others up for customers at her bed and breakfast. She said they always wanted to know what had given them the flavour. She also used a sprig in the water when boiling up a joint of bacon. Pennyroyal is well known as an ant repellant and a herb for the womb, it is good to hear people using it in different ways. It is advisable to note pennyroyal is not recommended for people who are pregnant.

I think it was at the same show a lady came by desperate for some white horehound – marrubium vulgare - as her old one had died. She said she made it into cough candies. I didn’t have a chance to get the recipe from her but it made me look it up on the internet. I really wanted to make some before I wrote this newsletter but I just haven’t had the time. Horehound cough sweets were once very popular, sold from market stalls and barrows in London. The best time to gather horehound is between June and September whilst it is in flower. For the candies you use the herb fresh, but it can be dried in the shade at temperatures less than 35 degrees centigrade for use as a tea. Horehound helps relax the muscles of the bronchioles in the lungs whilst at the same time helping with expectoration – meaning it promotes mucous production. It is used to treat bronchitis and whooping cough. As it is a bitter plant it aids digestion stimulating bile production in the gall bladder. As a cold infusion it is used externally for healing wounds. It is thought the name marrubium comes from the Hebrew word marros which means bitter juice and that it was one of the five bitter herbs eaten by people of the Jewish faith during their feast of Passover.

White Horehound

We have been busy collecting seed during September, primarily from the medicinal plants where germination from bought seed can be low, such as Echinacea, balm of Gilead, wood sage, viper’s bugloss, motherwort, vervain and Jacobs’s ladder. A lot of the seeds we sow straight away into seed trays and leave them outside over the winter where they germinate in spring. Any that we keep are dried well before being stored in paper bags. I don’t think we will be short of heartsease seed as in my garden they have completely self seeded themselves all over one of my small raised beds. They look absolutely lovely. I’m just waiting for the flowers to die off now so I can collect the seed. We will be planting up garlic this month ready for sale in the spring. This year I have ordered more than we need to plant so I can sell some on our local market stall. Not sure if this will be a success, we will have to wait and see.



The only other news is that Trinity, Jade’s cat, had her kittens a month ago, all five of them. They are getting pretty active now as Jade can testify from the holes in her legs where they have been practicing vertical ascents on her jeans in the mornings whilst she is making a cup of tea.


Jade's Kittens

Hope you all have a fabulous winter.


Horehound Cough Sweets


1 ¾ pints horehound leaves stems and flowers

1 pint water

1 ½ lb sugar

4 oz butter

Simmer the horehound in the water for half an hour then strain

Add sugar to the liquid and keep simmering until the sugar is dissolved

Add the butter and boil until you can drop a little of the mixture into a saucepan of cold water and it forms a soft ball

Pour into a shallow buttered tin

When cool score it into squares

Once hard break into the squares and wrap each piece in greaseproof paper.