The British…The Landscapers Are Coming!

I am of the firm belief that we are placed where, and when, we are meant to be, and it is up to us to figure out what we are supposed to do while we are there. To that end, I’m immensely grateful to be living where I am, and to have arrived here right before I started pursuing the related interests of aromatherapy, herbalism, and foraging.  I never met the previous owners, but I often thank them for planting and landscaping as if they had me in mind.  In addition to the invasives one might regularly happen upon in the Northeast, such as mugwort, and the garden weeds (a term I actually take exception to) such as dandelions and sweet violets, I am also blessed with 4 mulberry trees, a walnut tree, and a wild cherry tree.  There will be much to share on these last three later on in the summer.

As a renter, I very quickly forget that I’m at the whim of landscapers over whom I have little control.  I am not above running into their path to stop them from mowing patches where things look to be interesting.  I didn’t learn this particular lesson until after they rampaged through my stand of stinging nettles (U. dioica); of all the things they could have destroyed, this one hurt the most…but I digress.

This year I prayed for a less harsh winter, a more timely spring, and for delay of the first dreaded mowing. I sacrificed goat-shaped snowballs to the winter gods, as well as other manner of livestock, in hopes that they would be appeased.  The weeks went by and I started to get anxious, because I wasn’t seeing much pop up beyond the field garlic which slumbered on beneath the snow.  Three weeks before the mowing, I started to see little bits  here and there, but not enough to make a gathering worth more than a mouthful.  My life ran away with itself, and the next thing I knew it was the morning of, and decimation was scheduled for that afternoon.  Five hours later, I was knackered from frantically picking tiny violets, sticky dandelions, pungent field garlic, heavenly wisteria, and aromatic mugwort.  Just as I carted the last load to my garage, I heard the motors revving and quickly took one last picture of my yard as I would like to remember it, in all its wild glory.

My sun-addled brain, and growling stomach, convinced me it was time to cool off, indulge my appetite, and perhaps take a quick doze. By the time I regained consciousness, I remembered that the bag of dandelions were still sitting outside and lo’ they were swept away by the marauding mowing men.  I’ve since collected just enough for one experiment, but I’m so miffed that they don’t deserve any further attention until I see what comes of it.

As for the rest of my foragings, the field garlic was set aside for many things, to be discussed in Part Two of this saga, while, the blossoms were picked over, measured, and placed into three 2-gallon beverage dispensers.  Many cups of sugar were combined with many cups of water, over heat to dissolve, and then added to each jar. Other ingredients were tossed in for good measure and the whole lot was topped off with cool water, and then sealed. Every day my babies were burped, stirred, and tasted until enough of the sugar had been devoured, and a nice carbonation was lurking in the depths. They’ve all been strained, bottled, and will rest outside for another day or two to really boost the fizz factor, after which they’ll head to the fridge for some hibernation.  Now they’re ready to boil further for syrups or jellies, serve as a 2F flavouring for kombucha, jun, water kefir, or, enjoy simply on the rocks.

Behold, my bejewelled bottled beauties!

Read on for the approximate base measurements of each concoction. Multiply or divide at will! This is not an exact science; if you want it to be more concentrated, use more plant matter, or less water. Either way, have fun figuring out what works for your palate.

I’ll conclude with a few words of warning for those new to working with wisteria: all parts of the plant are considered to be toxic EXCEPT for the blossoms themselves.

Brief note on the naming of things:  there is much variation as to what constitutes a cordial. Some are based in spirits, some not.  Here, I’m taking it to be something more syrup-like, and has been infused for a shorter period of time.  The wild soda by contrast takes the same base and sits out long enough to build carbonation.  It should also theoretically be less sweet.

Grapefruit  Mugwort Cordial/Wild Soda

4 cups, packed, mugwort leaves and stems
3 grapefruits, juiced, and the rind* of one reserved for the infusion
3 cups of water, heated, to dissolve 1-2 cups of sugar

*The thick pith adds a bitter note which is not unpleasant.

Artemisia vulgaris & Citrus x paradisi

Wisteria Ginger Cordial/Wild Soda

4 cups, packed, wisteria blossoms ONLY*
3 tablespoons of ginger, coarsely chopped
5 cups of water, heated, to dissolve 1-2 cups of sugar

*See earlier text for note on toxicity

Up close and personal as I try one last time to surreptitiously inhale the heavenly parfum of wisteria blooms (Wisteria sinensis).
Wisteria sinensis

Violet Lemon Cordial/Wild Soda
4 cups, packed, violet blossoms
1 lemon sliced*
5 cups of water, heated, to dissolve 1-2 cups of sugar

*Anthocyans, responsible for the purple colour, will turn red/magenta with the addition of an acid. If you want to preserve the purple, leave out the lemon.

Fare thee well, sweetly scented violets (Viola odorata).  Yes, I do speak lovingly to plant matter even as I exploit them for my personal gain.
Viola odorata

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Trish Hewson says:

    These are very interesting concoctions and I am definitely going to try a few… thanks for the ideas…..Trish Hewson Vernon, BC, Canada


  2. Carol says:

    Thanks!! ALWAYS looking for more ideas for MUGWORT!!I have lots growing!
    Carol @StudioBotanica in Toronto,On. Canada


    1. cindersashraf says:

      You are most welcome, Carol! How else are you using mugwort? I still have a few tricks up my sleeve, but I’m always eager to hear more.


  3. YogurtHydro says:

    Beautiful pictures, and great ideas. Thanks for the inspiration!!


    1. cindersashraf says:

      You are most welcome. Thanks for stopping by!


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