The ‘Do’s’ and ‘Can’t’s of Local Plants

Today, two students went on an excursion around the site and surrounding areas to explore the foliage and nature associated with the Lower Hazel site. The goal being to gain insight into the extent of edible plants and naturally occurring useful resources that would likely have been present at the time of historic activity on the site.

The first and most abundant plant that was noticed was the multitude of wild garlic, also known as Ramsons. This not only proves to be an aesthetically pleasing plant, covering much of the surrounding ground, but also exudes a unique and interesting aroma that fills the site. The leaves of this plant can be used as nutritious vegetable that adds much flavor along with the milder bulbs. This could have been used in the site to add sustenance to food. Perhaps important to add is the fact that this plant is venomous to most pests, which allows for such healthy and extensive growth. John, the site owner advised us to leave a figwort plant to grow, in one of the trenches. The presence of this plant suggests that it is common in the area. The young leaves can be consumed fresh, and can also be boiled to make a herbal tea with many medicinal benefits. However it is speculated whether this plant was used in this manner during the 9th-12th centuries.

Standing tall amongst the rest of the plants is the elder tree, looking down upon the trowlers below, better known for its properties of producing elder flower; a popular drink, its sweet taste makes it a popular choice amongst those of us whom have an appetite for drinking the sweet sweet ambrosia of the gods, giving our short mortal lives a taste of something awe inspiring.

A less imposing plant that can be found around the dig site is the Dandelion, meaning lions teeth in Latin, though looking unassuming this name perhaps gives a better interpretation into the plant which is even known for growing through concrete. Though perhaps you would know this plant better as the common garden flower the dandelion. All of this plant is edible up from the flower right down to the roots, down to the roots. However due to its bitter taste it can be preferable to drink it instead as tea.

For those of us whom have spent time taking out the yearly accumulation of dirt from between the stone walls, perhaps for a mere 5 seconds to take a photo encapsulating the image in time for all eternity, will have come across the serenely white bulb, a refreshing change of color amongst the dirt, dirty stone and dirty moss in which we spend all day staring at. These bulbs do not only add a refreshing change of color but also taste brilliant, they are a species of onion and can be fried.  However with these innocent plants you should also verge on a side of caution, for unassuming consumers. Bluebells can also be found amongst the foliage, the bulbs of these however, though very similar, are very dangerous. Luckily they can be told apart by the smell.

Many may have painful memories of the next one, remembering more youthful days of snotty noses running to their parents crying, feeling the bitter regret of wearing shorts as they show the white bumps which have appeared on your leg. Luckily however the common remedy of dock leaves are often found near by the stinging nettle, unluckily however this plant provides little more than placebo for the bitter sting. Though these plants may be more painful than most they are in fact completely edible. And have been enjoyed in stinging nettle soup or tea. There are however differences between the male and female seeds of the nettle. The seeds can be picked off the nettle and eaten should the season allow for those pioneers who are brave enough to forefront the bitter memories of childhood stings, only the truly adventurous who have a natural curiosity in consuming those in which surround them will succeed here. Female seeds are far bigger and often less droopy than their male counterparts, often making them preferable when deciding between choice of consumption. Perhaps we can all draw something from these nettles, though perhaps they are just nettles.

But at this point I know what you are thinking. In my vast array of plants mentioned so far, I have not told you nearly enough for a salad, well, have no fear reader I have got you covered. In addition to newly grown figwort leaves and dandelion leaves I shall give you a third leaf to make your salad complete. The garlic mustard leaf which can be commonly found around the lower Hazel site, can be an excellent addition to your garden salad. These leaves are very edible.


By Theo and Ivo (2nd Year Undergraduates)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *