Rue is a herb that was known to the ancients and used to ward off spells and witches. Perhaps this was because of its strong smell which isn’t exactly pleasant. It originated in Southern Europe, and is believed to have been yet another of those herbs that was introduced to Britain by the Romans. It grows wild in Britain in northern England, but this plant was not much used in medicine as its smell is even more pungent than Garden Rue, which has been grown in gardens for centuries for its medicinal properties. Its Latin name “graveolens” comes from gravis meaning heavy and olere meaning smell. Ruta comes from the Greek, reuo meaning to set free, and this may be a reference to the fact that rue was highly esteemed and thought to rid the body of a great number of ailments.
   Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, used rue as the principle ingredient of an antidote to the poison of Mithradates Eupator and it was thought by ancient Greeks to be able to ward off witchcraft as they used it when eating with strangers as it stopped nervous stomach complaint and indigestion, which, they believed were induced by the witchcraft of strangers they ate in front of.
    Pliny wrote that artists and sculptors consumed a lot of rue in the belief that it would help keep their eyesight in perfect shape.
     Gerard the English herbalist tells us that Dioscorides believed that rue grew best under the shade of the fig tree. In fact rue likes to grow in sheltered spots. He went on to say this about the plant: - “if a man be anointed with the juice o rue, the poison of wolf’s bane, mushrooms and todestoles, the bites of serpents, stinging of scorpions, bees, hornets and wasps will not hurt him”.
     Rue water was sprinkled in houses to rid them of fleas and lice, and in the Middle Ages people would carry a bunch of rue when they went out to ward off the plague and other diseases. Judges would take it into court rooms with them so that they were not contaminated by the prisoners brought to the dock. People thought that the strong smell of the plant could kill diseases that were contagious.
     Rue is also known as the Herb of Repentance possibly because brushes of rue twigs were used to sprinkle holy water in churches before High Mass. It was also called Herb of Grace.
      Shakespeare makes reference to this in Richard III: -
        “Here in this place
          I’ll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace;
          Rue, even for ruth, shall shortly here be seen,
          In the remembrance of a weeping queen.”
Again in Hamlet, he has Ophelia say in Act 4 sc 5:-
         “There’s fennel for you and columbine; there’s rue
            for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it
            herb-grace o’Sundays. O you must wear your rue with
            a difference. There’s a daisy: I would give you
            some violets, but they withered all when my father
            died; they say he made a good death.”
Here Shakespeare gives rue the meaning of regret as well as the name of the herb.
   Dikes of Saxony used rue as a symbol of honour and the Order of the Rutenkrone (Crown of Rue) was bestowed on Queen Elizabeth II’s father. In Britain rue has been used since the middle of the 17th century in the Collar of the Order of the Thistle in Britain.
   The expressed juice of rue was once used to cure earache, but rue must be treated with caution and it is not advisable to use it without a doctor’s supervision as it can have violent side-effects and induce vomiting. It has been used to bring about abortions and acts on the uterine muscles. It is a useful anti-spasmodic though when you get stomach cramps and it has been used as an emmenogogue to regulate the menstrual blood flow. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid using it.
   A tisane can be made from the young tops of the rue plant- 1 ounce of tops to 1 pint of boiling water, left to steep for 15 minutes. This is a good antispasmodic and can be used to calm anyone who is hysterical. Rue has sedative properties. Culpeper recommended it to be applied externally to relieve joint pains, especially those connected with sciatica. The bruised leaves should be applied to the painful area. You can make a hot poultice with the leaves and apply it to the chest to relieve chronic bronchitis too. The plant contains rutin which supports and strengthens the inner walls of blood vessels and helps reduce blood pressure. Fresh leaves can be bruised and applied to the forehead and temples to get rid of headaches and the juice will prevent nightmares and help with nervous conditions. Chewing a leaf has the same effects as chewing kalvanji or Nigella sativa seeds; this will relieve nervous headaches and prevent giddiness.
   The whole herb can be used in poultices but the most potent part of the plant is the top, picked before it flowers.
   The recipe below has been adapted from a recipe used by the Romans.

½ bulb of garlic, peeled and finely minced
4 oz crumbly Feta cheese
2 celery stalks, finely minced with hard veins removed
½ bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely minced
½ bunch of rue leaves, finely minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsps white wine vinegar

Make a creamy paste with the Feta cheese by pounding it with a little olive oil. Blend all the other ingredients then add the Feta to the blender with the rest of the olive oil and the wine vinegar.
Store in the fridge until you are ready to use it. (Leave to stand for 15 minutes if you want to serve it almost immediately.) It is best to keep it overnight for best results.
This has Taste and is a Treat.



250 gr prawns, cleaned, shelled and shells reserved
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp oregano or ajwain
freshly ground black pepper
½ wineglass white wine (optional)
1 small pot of natural yoghurt
olive oil for frying

Heat the oil or butter and fry the onions until golden brown. Then add the prawns and cook on all sides for 5 minutes, making sure they are coated in oil.
Add all the other ingredients except the yoghurt and stir well.
Cook over a low heat for 15 minute, then stir in the yoghurt and allow to simmer, but not boil, for 5 minutes.
Serve with rice and a salad.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

The reserved prawn shells can be boiled with a small whole onion and mixed herbs for 30 minutes and used as a stock in other dishes. It can form the base of a fish soup, or be added to other prawn dishes.


The Cuckoo Pint may or may not be native to the British Isles, but it grows wild there and is often seen under hedges. It likes moist ground and shade, and has an attractive flower and berries, which are poisonous. The whole plant should be treated with caution as the sap from the plant causes a burning sensation and this lasts for hours. If you use the root then wash all utensils in boiling water afterwards.
   This plant is the only one of the Arum family to grow wild in Britain, and its leaves are among the first to emerge in spring. They are a glossy shade of green with purple blotches on them and the flower can also look stained with purple. It is said that these flowers grew under the cross of Christ and caught some of his blood. In this way they are the Holy Grail or Chalice of the British hedgerow.
   In the past children used to play a game to see which flower was first, the Lord or the Lady, differentiated by the colour of the stamens. That is how it came to have the name Lords and Ladies.
   Another name for it was Starchwort as its starchy tubers were used in Elizabethan times to starch the elaborate cuffs and ruffs that were so fashionable in the Renaissance. Gerard commented that the hands of the poor laundresses who used this root as starch were chapped and blistered because of it.
    Rural people say that the name is really Cuckoo’s Pintle or Pintel, meaning Cuckoo’s Penis, but there are several other ‘reasons’ given for the name too.  There are several pubs with the name “Cuckoo Pint” and the landlords of each will give different explanations for the name. Young girls used to be told not to touch the cuckoo pint or else they would become pregnant.
   In Germany there is an old superstition that if a young man goes to a dance he should put a little of the plant into his shoe and say the following words “I place you in my shoe; let all young girls be drawn to you”. In this way he could have the dancing partner of his choice, whatever the male competition.
   Dioscorides in the first century AD wrote that the leaves of the cuckoo pint were “excellent” eaten cooked as a vegetable. However the tuber is more frequently eaten as it has a high starch content and is like a potato. Care should be taken gathering the tubers though as the juice will cause a burning sensation and blistering. The tubers can be dried and then heated and ground to a fine powder. This was known as Portland Powder and was used as arrowroot is, but it was supposed to be an excellent treatment for gout.
   This powder was one of the ingredients of Poudre de Cypre (Cyprus Powder) used by fashionable Parisian ladies as a cosmetic, presumably to whiten the skin. The starch has to be washed copiously however to get rid of any toxins which irritate the skin. The tubers have a milky juice in them which needs to be got rid of before use. Drying then heating them gets rid of their acridity.
   After the root has been dried and baked, it can be eaten or the flesh can be pounded in a mortar to a powder and stored for future use in airtight jars in a cool dry place. The powder is a diuretic and stimulant.
   The American variety of this plant is Arum triphyllium or Dragon root also called Jack-in-the–Pulpit, or wild turnip. There are many arums all over the world which have the same toxicity as the Cuckoo pint, so all should be treated with caution.
   Taro, comes from the Calocasia antiquorum variety of Arum which is a close relative of the cuckoo pint. This is the tuber of the plant which is used like a sweet potato, in Hawaii and the Pacific islands. (Another name for it is Arum esculentum.)
   Calocasia macrorhiza, found on the Indian subcontinent is the plant from which gingili oil is obtained, and used in the treatment of intermittent fevers. It is obtained from the root of the plant. Another member of the Arum family is Arum montanum which also grows on the subcontinent, and the root was once used to poison tigers.
   You can use the dried powder of the cuckoo pint tuber to make bread and biscuits, instead of flour, but unless you are really strapped for cash it is inadvisable given the toxicity of the plant.


30 king prawns, shelled and cleaned but leave tail
60 gr butter
1 bulb of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsps brown sugar or gur
2 tbsps lemon or lime juice
2 tbsps fresh coriander leaves, pounded
2 tbsps holy basil( tulsi) leaves, pounded
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Slit the prawns along the vein, lengthways.
Heat the butter in a frying pan, and add all the ingredients apart from the prawns and stir well to mix.
Add the prawns one by one and cook them for 5 minutes each.
Put the prawns on a tooth pick so that you skewer them twice so that they almost form a circle.
Serve as an appetizer or with other nibbles with drinks.
These can be made beforehand and kept until the fridge until they are needed and grill before serving. They are tastier if you do this.
These have Taste and are a Treat.


Watercress is related to the flowers that grow in many British gardens, nasturtiums. Nasturtium comes from the Latin, nasus meaning nose and torquere, to torment. The nasturtium family of cresses (which includes the flower and the herb called Garden cress) has a pungent aroma, which explains their name. Watercress grows wild in Britain by clear flowing streams, and I used to gather it on the mountain, when I was a child. I have always loved both the smell and the taste of this herb. Now of course it is cultivated and can easily be bought from supermarket shelves, but you can also grow your own by putting some leaves with stems in a bottle of water and changing it once a day. When it has grown roots it can be transplanted into pots of sandy soil and watered frequently.
   Watercress is native to Europe and Russia, but now grows on most continents. The Greeks and Romans believed that it cleared the mind so that decisions could be made more easily. They used it as a salve for wounds. If you rub a paste of the leaves onto a wound it will stop any infection as the leaves have antiviral and anti-bacterial properties.
   It is good eaten raw in salads and is useful for diabetics as it helps get rid of excess sugar in the blood. It is a diuretic and so good for obesity as it helps the body rid itself of excess water. It cannot help remove stones from the internal organs but it a good preventative. Watercress aids the liver, helping it to stay healthy.
   Watercress belongs to the Brassica family of vegetables along with broccoli and brussel sprouts and shares many of the same properties. It tastes a little like rocket but is less spicy, although they can be substituted for each other.
    A tisane can be made from 5 gr. of watercress to 1 cup of boiling water, steeped for 10 minutes and then strained. This is good as a diuretic and if you have a bronchial cough or cold. You can also steep 25 gr of watercress in a glass of cold water overnight and strain it in the morning and take a tablespoon 4 times a day. Pep it up with the addition of cayenne pepper or black pepper.
    If you crush the leaves to get the juice from them you can apply this to your face to remove any skin blemishes, but to get rid of pimples you should take the tisane internally.
    Watercress can help with respiratory illnesses as it is an expectorant, antibronchitic, antiviral, antipyretic and a general tonic. It contains 13 amino acids, the B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C, and the following minerals: - calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, iodine and zinc. This means that it contains a lot of antioxidants, so helps with blood flow, etc. It also contains beta-carotene, fibre, and essential oil, glutotropeolin, and glycosides. It has been used in the past to treat TB and Culpeper suggested the bruised leaves could be used to remove skin blemishes.
   An old superstition says that if you wrap watercress in red flannel and wear it when you have to go on water you will be protected from drowning.

1 bunch of watercress, shredded
½ head of lettuce, shredded
4-6 spring onions, roughly chopped
½ cucumber sliced
4 tomatoes, sliced
1 tbsp capers
12 black olives
olive oil and wine vinegar for the dressing
½ tsp dried oregano

Combine all the ingredients except for the oil and vinegar.
Mix 2 parts oil and 1 part vinegar and add a little oregano. Shake well to combine, then toss the salad in this dressing.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


2 cups prawns, shelled and cleaned
3 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsps cornflour
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 egg white
oil for frying

Mix together the flour, cornflour and spice powders add a little water and stir to a paste.
Put the prawns in this mixture, making sure they are completely coated in it and leave to stand for ½ hour.
Whisk the egg white until it is stiff and forms peaks.
Heat the oil in a pan and dip each prawn in the egg white and add to the pan.
Fry the prawns for about 5 minutes.
Serve immediately with salad.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


1 kg white fish cut into 3 inch pieces
½ kilo spring onions, chopped
1½ tsps fenugreek seeds (methi)
1½ tbsps chilli powder
1½ tbsps ground cumin seeds
1½ tbsps ground coriander seeds
salt to taste
1 tbsp pounded garlic paste
1 tbsp pounded ginger root (paste)
1 cup natural yoghurt
1 cup oil
8 green chillies, finely chopped
1½ inch piece of ginger root, chopped
fresh coriander leaves for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan with the fenugreek seeds and fry until they become red. Add the spring onions and fry until they become light brown.
Add the garlic and ginger pastes, chillies and all the spices. Cook for 5 mins.
Then add the yoghurt to the spice mixture and stir well. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the fish to the mixture and make sure the heat is low.
Cover the pan so that the fish is cooked by the steam. Don’t remove the lid, but shake the pan to mix everything when you think you need to, (every 3 to 4 mins should be enough).
Cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat take out the fish and pour the sauce over it. Garnish with the ginger and fresh coriander if you wish.
Serve with boiled rice or breads of your choice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


The common plantain of the British Isles and Europe is Plantago Major, while the plantain in the Indian subcontinent is Plantago ovata or isphagula. The Asian one is used as a bulk laxative in the West under the trade name Fybogel and is very useful for Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers. In Pakistan it is sold as Ispaghol, made from the husks of the seeds of Plantago ovata or Indian desert wheat.
  In Britain plantain has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb, and grows there as a weed. In Anglo-Saxon it was called Weybroed and was one of the nine sacred herbs. It has been used as a panacea, and this is reflected in the Scots Gaelic word for the herb, ‘Slan-lus’, the healing plant. The Anglo-Saxons used it as an antidote for “flying venom” along with hammerwort, chamomile and the roots of water dock. Later it was used as an ointment for burns, in a compound of celandine flowers (shiny yellow ones that look a little like buttercups) elderflower buds and houseleeks. Its expressed juice was mixed with comfrey, and sugar to stop the spitting of blood, although there is no medical evidence as yet to support this use.
Plantago ovata
   It contains acubin which is a powerful anti-toxin, so the use of it to cure snake bites and those of other venomous creatures has a basis in medicine. In US folklore, it was said to have cured a dog after it was bitten by a rattlesnake, and Erasmus, writing in the Colloquia during the early Renaissance tells of a toad that on being bitten by a poisonous spider, immediately ate a plantain leaf and showed no sign afterward of having been bitten. Pliny said that if “it is put in a pot where many pieces of flesh are boiling, it will meld them together.” He also said that it would cure a rabid dog, however. It has been used in the past to treat a plethora of illnesses, including insect bites (rub the leaves on them) nettle rash, all skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, fevers, to heal minor wounds, burns, scalds, and to stop haemorrhages both internally and externally among other things.
Decoctions of plantain have been made with a variety of flowers, docks and comfrey, and some of these were used for kidney problems. The expressed juice was used for piles. Plantain juice mixed with lemon juice was thought to be an excellent diuretic, and powdered dry leaves were used to rid the body of intestinal worms. To stop diarrhoea and dysentery the whole plant except the roots is used; you need an ounce of the plant, chopped, and a pint of boiling water. Pour the water over the plantain and leave it to steep for 20 minutes, then strain and drink half a cup 3 times a day.
   The powdered plantain seeds were used to stop vomiting, lethargy and liver disorders, and in Salmon’s Herbal of 1710 it says “The liniment mixed with juice and oil of roses eases headaches caused by heat and is good for lunatics.” He also says that when mixed with houseleeks and lemon juice essence of plantain was used in cosmetics.
    There are references to plantain in literature from Chaucer onwards, and it is mentioned in several of Shakespeare’s plays including Romeo and Juliet “plain plantain” In Act I scene 2, and “Plantain leaf” was recommended for mending a broken shin.
    The young leaves can be used in salads and it can also be used as a herb in soups and stews. The leaves and seeds have antibacterial, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-tussive, diuretic, expectorant laxative, ophthalmic, demulcent, and cardiac properties, and medical research has shown that it can be used effectively in the treatment of asthma, emphysema, bladder disorders, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control.
   For colds and flu it is good to drink a tisane; 1 tbsp of fresh or dried whole plantain herb (seeds, roots and leaves) to 1 pint of boiling water. Pour the water over the plantain and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey to taste and drink throughout the day.
  For insect bites and a night cream to prevent wrinkles, or help the skin knit together you should mix ½ lb ghee or lard with 1 pound of chopped plantain plant. Put in a pot and cover it then cook over a low heat until the mixture is green and mushy. Strain while hot and cool. This is good for burns and skin irritation too.
  If you boil the roots in water this decoction is good for diarrhoea, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, piles asthma, hay fever etc. Plantain is also used to cause an aversion to tobacco smoking in some anti-smoking aids. The distilled water from the plant is also apparently, good for sore eyes.
  Plantago ovata makes a very good remedy for diarrhoea and dysentery, which I can personally vouch for.


There are around fifty species of broom that grow in northern and western Asia all over Europe and North Africa. Broom was introduced into North America in the early 1800s as an ornamental plant, but it now grows wild and is classed as an invasive species. Cytisus scoparius is native to Britain and is and has been called by a number of names, including, Scotch Broom, besom, basam, bizzen, browne and Spanish broom is Spartium junceum which is common in Greece and the broom known to Virgil and Pliny and the ancients. Butcher’s broom is a different variety and not discussed here. It is also known by other botanical names such as Sarothamnus scoparius, and Genista scoparius.
  It is called broom because it was used to make brooms or sweeping brushes (hence besom, bizzen etc.) Scoparius in Latin means a broom and Sarothamnus is from the Greek which means to sweep and a shrub. The name Cytisus is supposed to be a derivative from the name of a Greek island, Cythnus where Spanish broom flourished.
   The Anglo-Saxons used broom for medicinal purposes, and it was known to the physicians of Myddfai in the 9th century, although they favoured Butcher’s broom in their herbal remedies. The Scots used to hang garlands of the flowers around their necks to stem a nosebleed, but it had far more important symbolic value for them and the English and French.
   Geoffrey of Anjou put a sprig of flowering bloom in his helmet when he went into battle so that he could be easily seen by his troops, so that it gave them courage to see their leader in the midst of battle. Fulke of Anjou adopted broom as his symbol and his grandson Henry II of England also adopted it as his emblem. The name Plantagenet (as Henry II and his descendents were called) came from the name for broom Genista, Planta meaning plant, and Genista, specifically the broom. Its first official appearance in British history was on the Great Seal of Richard I; Richard Plantagenet.
   Another tale about its adoption in Brittany, France, is the following one: a prince of Anjou assassinated his brother and took over his kingdom, but was overcome by remorse and went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to show his repentance. He scourged himself with broom twigs each night to show he had repented of his crime of fratricide and adopted broom as his symbol.
   Again in France, St. Louis, on his marriage, founded an order the Colle de Genet or Collar of the Broom and the broom flower and fleur-de-lys were worn on the coats of 100 nobles who were his bodyguards, along with the motto “Extaltat homilies” – he exalts the humble (or lowly).The order was held in high esteem and being allowed to wear the broom flower was regarded as a high honour. Richard II of England was given the broom to wear and a broom plant with an open pod empty of seeds decorates his tomb at Westminster Abbey in London.
    The Scots Forbes clan wore bloom flowers in their bonnets when they needed to stimulate courage in their chieftains. During the civil wars of the 14th century, bloom was as much in use as an emblem as the roses of the Houses of York and Lancaster.
   Broom was traditionally a symbol of plenty in Britain, and was respected by nobles and peasants alike. The peasants, who made brooms from the twigs of the plant, didn’t do this when the flowers were blooming as there was a superstition that is shown in this rhyme from Suffolk in eastern England,
     “If you sweep the house with blossomed broom in May,
      You are sure to sweep the head of the house away.”
This might mean that the man of the house would die, or that he would be called upon to go on one of the Crusades to the Holy Land, and perhaps never return.
   Another old tale is that the Virgin Mary cursed the broom plant while she and Joseph were fleeing with the baby, Jesus, from Bethlehem to Egypt. The seed pods make a loud cracking noise when the seeds burst out and they did so as the trio past thus alerting Herod’s soldiers.
  Broom has been employed for uses other than making brooms, and one of its more valuable attributes is that it has a strong root system which can help prevent soil erosion. It was planted on steep banks to prevent landslides. The twigs and branches were used to weave baskets and it is planted as shelter for game birds, and to protect young, more important species of plant from the ravages of the wind until they become firmly established. When the plants are older their stems are valued by cabinet-makers for use as veneer. In Britain these stems have been used for thatch and as a substitute for reeds to make fences and screens. The bark can be made into fibre, but it is not as good for this use as is Spanish Broom. The fibre is extracted by soaking the bark in water to separate the fibre, as is done with flax. The shoots have been used to make paper and cloth and a green dye can be made from the leaves and young tops of the plant. In past times the tannins extracted from broom were used for tanning in the leather industry. The tops were used in Britain to brew beer before the introduction of hops, and it should be noted that the seeds have narcotic properties, as can be seen from the effects the plant has on sheep and goats after they have eaten them. They are stimulated at first and then sleep, although the effects are short-lived.
   Gerard mentions that the flowers were pickled or preserved in salt and then used in salads instead of capers, having been washed thoroughly of the pickling mixture or salt before being boiled and used. Guests at rustic weddings used to carry sprays of broom tied with coloured ribbons if rosemary were not available. The seeds have been used as a coffee substitute too, like dandelion roots.
    Henry VIII drank water from the broom flowers as a cure for gout and it was highly recommended in the Renaissance for “stoppages of the liver”. Gerard mentions that the “decoction of the twigs and tops of Broom doth cleanse and open the liver, milt and kidnies.” Culpeper believed that a decoction of the plant was good for dropsy, black jaundice, fevers, gout, sciatica, and various pains of the hips and joints. Some old physicians used to burn the tops and put the ash in wine; this was known as Sal Genista or Salts of Broom.
  The seeds have been used to treat liver complaints and fevers and broom juice can be obtained from the fresh bruised tops. Traditionally this is mixed with a thirds or the volume of alcohol and left to steep for 7 days. It has to be strained before using and the tops should be ideally gathered in June for this purpose. Broom juice should not be consumed in large quantities.
 A tisane can be made with 1 oz of dried tops to 1 pint of boiling water. Pour the water onto the dried tops and leave to steep for 15 minutes then strain and drink a small glass 3 times a day for liver complaints, or use once in a while as a tisane. It is a diuretic.
   For bladder and kidney problems try this mixture: 1 oz broom tops, ½ oz of dandelion roots and boil these in 1 pint of water until the water is reduced by half. About 5 minutes before this is done, add half an oz bruised juniper berries. Cool the liquid and strain it then add ¼ tsp cayenne pepper. Take a small glass 3 or 4 times a day.
   The isoflavines in broom are oestrogenic but the problem with broom is that it contains toxic alkaloids one of which is sparteine which may be dangerous to some people with heart problems as it is cardio-active. Broom has been used orally for a variety of complaints mainly to do with the heart and blood circulation. It has also been used to stimulate uterine contractions for women in labour and given after a birth to reduce blood flow. Broom also contains tyramine which can heighten or lower blood pressure. It can be dangerous and should only be taken under medical supervision. Pregnant and lactating women should not use it.


Grewia asiatica originated in Southern India, but it now grows in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In the subcontinent it is highly sought after in the hot summer months as it can be made into a cooling, refreshing drink, falsa sharbat. In fact it is said to be the third favourite summer fruit, after mangoes and peaches. It has a tangy, sweet flavour with dark purple fruit surrounding one or two small hard seeds. It grows on a small tree or found wild, may grow on a rather straggly-looking bush, and grows to a maximum height of 15 feet.
   The fruit juice contains magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, carbohydrates and vitamins A and C. The anthocyanin flavonoids it contains are thought to be protective against cancer. The fruit, leaves, bark, roots and root bark are all used for medicinal purposes, and in Ayurvedic medicine it is also used as and aphrodisiac and a cooling tonic. The seeds contain a bright yellow oil which contains palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acids. An infusion of the bark is used to relieve fevers, to treat diarrhoea and as a demulcent. It is astringentand aids digestion, and used as a remedy for stomach upsets and indigestion.
   The leaves are applied to skin to heal wounds, cuts and grazes and to relieve irritation and painful rashes. They are thought to have an antibiotic effect. They are also used as cattle fodder and the root bark is used to help people who suffer from rheumatism. The stems of the shrub and the bark can be made into rope, baskets and are harvested for fuel.
The bark is used in the gur (brown sugar) making process to purify the sugar cane juice from which it is made; this is because the bark is mucilaginous.
   The wood is fine-grained and cream coloured, strong and flexible and has been used to make archer’s bows, spear handles, poles and baskets.
The fruit is eaten raw with black salt or salt and black pepper. The fruit and the juice have been employed for centuries to treat liver and gall bladder problems, to purify the blood and regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and to protect the heart. The fruit is said to help prevent coughs and colds and to relieve them if you have them.
   For skin problems, you should soak the bark overnight and then pound it and apply the pulp directly on to the affected area.
   Falsa Sharbat is good to help sunburn victims and to treat sunstroke. If you have been exposed to sunlight for a long time, this recipe below  will help remedy the harmful effects you might suffer from.

250 gr falsa
100 gr sugar or to taste
black salt to taste
2½ glasses very cold water
ice cubes
fresh mint leaves to garnish

Wash the fruit thoroughly and the sprinkle liberally with salt and leave to macerate for an hour.
Mash the berries and then sieve the pulp to get rid of the seeds.
Put the falsa pulp into a jug and add the sugar and black salt and salt if you wish.
Pour the chilled water over the pulp and mix well or blend.
Pour into glasses over ice, and garnish with the fresh mint leaves.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


The Common Nettle or Stinging Nettle is native to the temperate zones of the world and is common in Britain, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia and many other countries. Some believe that it may be a naturalized plant in Britain, introduced by the Romans who, knowing it was cold in Britain, took stinging nettles with them and used them to get warm in winter by beating their legs with them. The nettle is a unique plant in that if you get stung by one and then deliberately put a nettle on the stinging part, it lessens the stinging sensation. However, as Dock leaves usually grow near nettles, at least they do in Britain, you can put a dock leaf on the sting and this gives rapid relief. Mint, sage and rosemary leaves have the same effect.
   However much the nettle hurts in Britain and Europe, other nettles are far more horrendous. A species native to Java Uriotica urentissima, gives a sting, the effects of which can last for a year, and may, it is said, be fatal. In India Uriotica crenulato and Uriotica heterophylla are also best to avoid.
    In the past nettles have been used to relieve painful muscles, joints, eczema, arthritis, gout and anaemia. Some of the remedies included beating the nettle on the sore place, which probably served to give the patient some other pain to think about. They sting because they have fine hairs on the stalk and leaves, and these contain chemicals which when released cause irritation to the skin.
    Today they are used as a diuretic, and to help urinary problems associated with an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), urinary tract infections, hay fever, or in compresses for treating joint pain, sprains and strains and insect bites. Fresh nettles make good insect repellents. Recent medical trials suggest that they may help lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. The parts used are the stem, leaves and roots, although the seeds have been used too. Nettles should be avoided when pregnant.
   A tisane can be made with 2/3 cup of boiling water poured over 3 to 4 teasponns of dried leaves or root. Allow the plant to steep for 3 to 5 mins, then strain and drink, sweetened with a little honey. You can also use fresh leaves, but leave to steep for 10 minutes. You should drink water after drinking the tisane.
   The plant contains vitamins A, B and C and lectins which seem to stimulate the immune system. The tisane has been used to dispel gravel from the kidneys and stimulates the function of these and the bladder.
   Nettles have been used to make cloth and this was used in German army uniforms in the First World War, when cloth was scarce in Germany. It has been made to weave coarse fibres for cordage, sacks and sailcloth. Nettles can be made into beer, and the flowering tops used to be made into country wine.
    The young tops are best used for cooking and should be harvested when they are 6”to 8” tall. You need to harvest these wearing protective gloves, and then wash them thoroughly under cold running water, and throw them in a pan, while they are still wet, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove them from the heat and roughly chop them, and blend them with salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can put poached eggs on top of them for a tasty light lunch. The leaves have a nutty flavour. They have a slightly laxative effect though, so don’t eat too many.
   In Scotland they make nettle pudding, by using a bucket full of young nettle tops, 2 chopped leeks and broccoli heads, and ¼ pound of rice. You put the vegetables together in a layer in a muslin bag then a layer of rice and repeat the layering until the ingredients are used up. Then tie the bag and boil for 30 minutes and serve with melted butter.
    An infusion of fresh leaves can be helpful for burns, but you can dry nettles, by picking them on a sunny morning and tying them in bunches of 8 to 10 in a fan shape and hang them in a sunny spot to dry so that the air can penetrate the nettles. When dry, store in airtight tins or powder them and store in airtight jars. You can also dry the flowers and seeds by spreading them out on paper in the sun.
   The juice from the leaves can be used with a little honey or sugar for asthma, or sufferers can burn the dried leaves and inhale the smoke. The seeds and flowers were given in wine to relieve fevers. This was also given as an antidote to poisoning by hemlock, nightshade and Henbane, as well as for snake bites, and those of rabid dogs.
   Nettles have also been used to prevent hair loss and promote growth. To make the hair tonic, you need 2 pints of water and a handful of young nettles. Simmer them for 2 hours, strain and bottle when cold and saturate the scalp with the liquid every alternate night. You can also comb expressed nettle juice through your hair to stimulate new growth and keep hair shining and healthy.

1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ lb young nettles washed and roughly chopped
2 oz butter
salt and pepper to taste
small pot of natural yoghurt

Boil the potatoes for 10 mins in salted water. Drain.
Melt the butter and add nettles and fry for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and chicken stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins or until tender.
Remove from the heat and blend all ingredients together.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Burdock is a very common weed in the British Isles and is native to Europe and northern Asia, although it is widespread in North America too where it has been naturalized. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, but also makes a good drink when mixed with dandelions. The recipe below is for a soft drink, but beer or mead can be brewed from burdock and dandelion roots too. In Wales, dandelion and burdock was a popular soft fizzy drink.There is a legend dating back to the 13th century in which it is said that while in prayer, God told St Thomas Aquinas to make an elixir of the first ingredients he found, and these happened to be dandelion and burdock
   Burdock is a member of the thistle family, and donkeys love it. Remember Eeyore in Winnie-the-Pooh stories? He loved it. Burdock has seed pods, burs which stick to sheep’s wool and people’s clothing, in the same way that those of agrimony do. Whereas agrimony was known as philanthropos, burdock was called Philanthropium, presumably to distinguish it from agrimony. The name Arctium comes from the Greek, arktos meaning bear, and is thought to refer to the brown hairy bur looking a little like a bear’s coat.
   Burdock is mentioned in literature form North America and Europe attesting to its prevalence. Here are some examples: Shakespeare refers to it in “Troilus and Cressida” when Pandanus says “They are Burs, I can tell you, they’ll stick where they are thrown.”
In “King Lear”: -
   “Crown’d with rank Fumiter and Furrow-weeds,
     With Burdocks, Hemlock, Nettles, Cuckoo-flowers
In “As You Like It”: -
  " Rosalind : How full of briers this working day!
    Celia:        They are but burs, cousin, thrown in holiday foolery. If we walk not in the trodden paths, our very petticoats will catch them."
Children love to throw the burs on adults clothing still so that they are unaware of their presence until they get home.
   These plants are also mentioned in Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales, in “The Happy Family”,
“The burdock never grows alone, but where there grows one, there always grow several, it is a great delight and all this delightfulness is snail’s food.”
In contrast the American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne says this of them:
  “…a grass-plot, much over-grown with burdock, pig-weed, apple-pern and such unsightly vegetation…” (The Scarlet Letter, chapter 2)
However George Eliot has this to say about them in chapter 12 of her famous novel “Middlemarch”:
    “…the great oak shadowing a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-tree grows, the sudden slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for the burdocks.”
  In the Middle Ages these were valuable plants and the seeds were used to get rid of kidney stones in the belief that seeds, being hard and needing to be pounded could counteract the gravel in the organs.
   The stalks of the burdock plant can be peeled and eaten raw in a salad tossed in oil and wine vinegar, like the stalks of the Globe artichoke. They can also be cooked after peeling and used as a vegetable. (They taste a little like asparagus.) They are eaten in parts of Europe and Japan. They contain inulin and dietary fibre as do the leaves which can also be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. The stalks used to be candied and used like angelica.
   The plant has antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and medical trials have shown that it has “prebiotic properties that could improve health” (University of Maryland centre for alternative and complementary medicine).
    You can make and infusion of the root which is best harvested in July, and dried, using 2-6 grams of root to 500 mls boiling water and allowing the root to steep in the water for 15 minutes before straining and drinking 3 times a day for skin problems such as acne and eczema. You can also use this on the skin, but not on open wounds.
   You can make an infusion of the leaves (pour boiling water over them and leave to steep for 15 minutes) for stomach problems and an infusion of the seeds has been used to treat kidney problems and nervous disorders. Culpeper recommended the leaf juice or latex from the roots to be drunk in “old wine” for snake bites, and the bruise leaves mixed with egg white for burns. The bruised leaves can be made into a poultice for skin problems but not for open wounds.
   The Chinese use this plant in traditional medicine for cancer, barrenness, erectile dysfunctions and an aphrodisiac.
   The recipe below is rich in vitamins A and C.

2 tsps ground dandelion root
2 tsps ground burdock root
1 inch ginger root, finely chopped
3 pints water

Boil all the ingredients together for half an hour.
Cool and bottle.
Use as a cordial and add soda water for the extra fizz.
You can also add orange juice and zest to the cooking water but this is the traditional recipe. You can experiment with other fruit once you have tasted it. It should look like cola.
This has Taste and is a Treat.


Dandelions grow in northern places and are cultivated in India for their health benefits. Every child loves to play with the seeds; blowing them and watching them scatter on the wind. We used to call them dandelion “clocks” in Wales, but my grandfather told me that if I picked a dandelion and ate it I would “piss in the bed”, so I never picked them after that. This comes from the French name for the dandelion, pisse-en-lit, and refers, no doubt to the plants diuretic properties. The ancient Welsh physicians of Myddfai had many uses for the dandelion, as recorded in The Red Book of Hengist which is part of “The Mabingion”. Here is an extract for a dandelion remedy: -
§13. For intermittent fevers. Take dandelion and fumatory, infused in water, the first thing in the morning. Then about
noon take wormwood infused in water likewise, drinking it as often as ten times, the draught being rendered tepid. Let bread made with pounded wheat be also taken, or oaten cakes, goat's whey, the flesh of a young fowl, husky porridge in water, milk being abstained from, and indeed every kind of milk diet. If the ague does not then terminate, the patient must be put in a bath, when the paroxysm come.”
   The Latin name Taraxacum comes from the Greek, taraxos meaning disorder and akos meaning remedy. The dandelion has been used for centuries in the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders, and medical science has found that these remedies have some scientific foundation, but say that more trials are needed to confirm these initial findings.
  In India they are used to remedy liver problems and in Britain they have long been used to counteract the same problems. The parts used in medicine are the root and the leaves, with the flowers made into dandelion wine.
    The name dandelion is a corruption of the Latin name for this plant; Dens leonis which means lion’s teeth and it is believed that the name refers to the shape of the leaves. In an ancient German manuscript dated 1532, “Brunfel’s Contrafayt Kreuerbuch”, the leaves of the dandelion are illustrated and they look like a lions teeth. In the “Ortus Sanitatis” manuscript of 1485 it is written “ The herb was much employed by Master Wihelmus, a surgeon, who, on account of its virtues, likened it to ‘eynem lewen zan, gennet zu latin Dens leonis’, (a lion’s tooth in Latin called Dens leonis)
   It could be, of course that as the dandelion flowers in August it coincides with Leo in astrological terms, so it could be that lion from which the plant got its name.
   In the Middle Ages it was referred to as “Priest’s Crown” which is what the head of the flower looks like after the seeds have scattered. The shaven tonsures of priests were then often seen.
    The plant is mentioned in Arab manuscripts dating from the 10th and 11th centuries and it was used by Ibn Sina among others. These physicians referred to it as the “wild endive” and Taraxcacon.
    The root can be roasted and then ground to make a coffee substitute which tastes fine and doesn’t leave you wide awake at night. The plant has been used to make beer too, and dandelion stout was once a favourite drink in the Midlands in Britain. It is also good as beer when mixed with nettles and docks, and there is a fizzy drink that was originally called “dandelion and burdock”, which has a very different flavour to most carbonated drinks.
  You can make a soup from the young dandelion leaves with sorrel leaves and nettles, and add the young leaves to other soups. They are good in egg sandwiches, liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, and the young leaves may be added to salads, making a good substitute for spinach. You can also boil them and then cook with spinach as a side dish that is rich in iron.
  The whole plant is rich in vitamins A, B complex, C and D, iron, potassium and zinc. Dandelions have been used to cure fevers, as a mild laxative, to stop diarrhoea, for eye problems and various other ailments. Research has shown that they may be valuable for diabetics as they can regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol levels.
 There are many remedies which use dandelions roots, some of which are given below. If you go out to harvest the roots, look for large fleshy ones, and do this in autumn when the latex is at its most potent; ignore ones that are slender and forked. It is said that you can use the milky sap from the flower stalks to get rid of warts. You can use a juicer to get the sap from the leaves, and have a teaspoon of it 3 times a day as a general spring tonic. Tisanes have been used for weight loss, as they rid the body of fluid and keep the bowel clean. One tisane can be prepared by using 1 oz of the plant to 1 pint of boiling water. Pour the water onto the plant and leave to steep for 10 minutes. This has been used to stop nausea and vomiting.
   A decoction of the root, which is said to dispel gall and kidney stones, is to use 1 part of sliced root to 20 parts of water and boil this for 15 minutes then strain and sweeten with honey. This also aids digestion and cures flatulence and improves the appetite.
   For eczema and other skin problems, try this decoction: 2 oz plant or root and 2 pints of water. Bring this to the boil and then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Take a small cup of it every 3 hours
If you have liver problems, then you might want to try this: 1 oz dandelion root, ½ oz caraway seeds (kala zeera) ½ oz ginger root, ½ oz cinnamon quills, ¼ oz senna leaves and 3 pints of water. Boil all these ingredients and simmer until the water has reduced to half. Strain and cool, then add sugar, ½ lb, and boil again, removing any scum that appears on the top. Cool and take in teaspoonful doses frequently. Alternatively you could try this one for liver and kidney health: 1 oz broom (the plant) tops, ½ oz juniper berries, ½ oz dandelion root (fresh or dried), 1and a half pints of water. Boil for 10 mins then strain and add cayenne pepper to taste. Take 1 tablespoon 3 times a day.
   For a leaf tisane, take an ounce of fresh leaves and 1 cup of boiling water. Pour the water over the leaves and allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes, strain and take 1-2 teaspoons 3 times a day as a mild laxative.

½ lb fresh young dandelion leaves
½ lb spinach
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion finely chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon
butter or oil for frying
Put dandelion leaves in a pan of water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain then pat dry.
Heat the olive oil or butter in a pan and add the spinach and dandelion leaves, cook over a low heat until they have wilted.
Add the pine nuts to the pan and coat in the oil and fry the garlic and onion if you want to, although this isn’t necessary.
Mix the all ingredients together well and serve.
This has Taste and is a Treat.



Agrimony is an ancient healing herb or vulnery which was certainly used by the Meddygon Myddfai, or Physicians of Myddfai in ancient Wales. These were a long line of gifted herbal doctors whose beginnings are shrouded in the mists of time, but are thought to have begun in 800 AD. Their herbal lore was supposed to have come from the founder who fell in love with the Lady of the Lake, a fairy who eventually returned his love and bore him three sons. The herbal lore of these physicians continued until the 1800s and was transcribed in The Red Book of Hengist, The Mabingion, in the 13 the century. This book is still in print. The herb is Y Tryw in Welsh and was used along with betony and vervain, boiled in ale and milk for mastitis. It was sacred to the Celtic goddess Danu.
   It was known to Dioscorides in the first century AD who recommended it for “bad livers” and snake bites. There are various beliefs about how the herb was named, some saying that it was named eupatoria after the King of Pontus, Mithradates Eupator, who was a bane of the Roman Empire, and who ruled Pontus from 120 BC until 63 BC. He was thought to be a magician and herbalist who doused himself with plant poisons to protect himself from injury. The name Agrimonia may come from the Latin “agri moenia” meaning “defender of the fields” as it was a common sight in meadows and hedgerows, or it may come from the Greek name for plants which healed eyes and made them shining “argamone”.
   Agrimony was used with other common herbs in the countryside in Britain as a “spring drink” or a “diet drink” and was believed to purify the blood. The Anglo-Saxons called it Garclive and used it to heal wounds, snake bites and to get rid of warts, among other remedies. They also believed that if they carried it on their person it would protect them from goblins. Agrimony was one of the seven herbs they used in their “Holy Salve.” In Chaucer’s time it was called Egrimoyne and used with mugwort and vinegar to relieve back pain and “alle woundes.” There was a remedy of the 12th century which called for agrimony to be mixed with one pound of frogs and human blood to stop internal bleeding. It was one of the herbs used in L’eau d’arquebusade which was used to heal wounds inflicted by the arquebus, a type of early hand gun employed in the 15th century. In France it may still be found and is used to treat sprains and bruises.
   Its other common names are Cockleburr, so called because the seed pods stick to animals and people’s clothes, and Philanthropos, (people lover). Gerard writes that this may be for the reason mentioned or because of its healing properties, but he seemed to believe the former reason was the correct one. He also wrote that it was good for those who lead “naughty lives”.
   It is also called Church Steeples because of the tallness of the plant and its flowers, it is reminiscent of mullein but not as tall and the flowers are not as close together, although they are usually yellow.
   It is a member of the rose family of plants and has a fragrant smell with a faint hint of lemon. It tastes rather like apricots, and makes a pleasant tisane. Culpeper recommended it for external use as being good for the skin and healing wounds and suggested bathing in water in which it had been steeped. He also says that a decoction taken in wine was good for snake bites, colic and bad breath as well as being effective against coughs.
    This rhyme was found in an old English manuscript: -
      “If it be leyd under mann’s heed.
       He shal sleepyn as he were deed;
       He shal never drede ne wakyn
       Till fro his heed it be takyn.”
In other words it induces profound sleep and if it is under your pillow, you won’t wake up unless it is removed. Today mugwort and agrimony are used in Dream pillows.
    Agrimony should be gathered when it is in full bloom and spread out to dry on a wire rack in a very sunny spot. Turn the parts of the plant at regular intervals until it can be crumbled to a powder. It can be stored for future use in airtight jars. Dry all parts of the upper plant, i.e. flowers, leaves and stem. You can use them in the tisane recipe given below, which is effective against diarrhoea and blood loss in the urine or stools. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throats and mouth ulcers. It has been used in traditional medicine for liver complaints including jaundice and will aid digestion. It is said to be good for the blood and skin and a strong decoction of the crown of the root system and leaves boiled in water and mixed with honey was especially used for skin problems. If you use this, you need to drink 2 or 3 small cupfuls every day for several months to clear the skin.
    In Ayurvedic medicine a tisane is given to alleviate stress, anxiety and hypertension and lower blood pressure. It is also a diuretic and as it contains Vitamin K it is a good blood clotting agent. Modern medical trials have shown that it may be useful in treating bacterial and viral infections, in inhibiting the growth of tumours, for diabetes and hypertension, although more human studies are needed to substantiate these early findings. Trials are underway to teat its efficacy in treating skin diseases and gastrointestinal ailments. Germany’s Commission E has approved the use of the tisane for diarrhoea and as a gargle for sore throats to reduce inflammation and soreness.
   You can make a poultice of the leaves and apply to the head during migraines, or use the tisane to treat athlete’s foot, or use freshly crushed fresh leaves. If you have conjunctivitis or other eye problems then 10 gr of the herb to 500 ml of water should be boiled together and left to cool then used as eyewash.
    Native Americans have used agrimony effectively for fevers, and the tisane is a mild diuretic.
   You can use it in pot pourris with dried flowers such as rose petals, lavender and violets. You can use the fragrant dried leaves for this purpose too. It is said that if you carry agrimony, along with rue, Maidenhair fern, broom and ground ivy, you will be able to recognize witches. If one happens to cast a spell on you then the agrimony will mirror it back and the evil will befall the one who cast the spell.

1 handful of dried agrimony (whole herb)
1 pint of boiling water
honey to taste

Pour the boiling water over the dried herb and leave to steep for 15 minutes. Strain and drink a tea cup of it 3 or 4 times a day for all the ailments mentioned above.
This has taste and is a Treat(ment).