Foraging Herbs and Food

Sweet Woodruff

As the species name might suggest, this plant is scented.  It is used in pot-pourri, was once used to flavour German beer and brandy and is also marketed in herbal tea. The wonderful scent – of new-mown hay and vanilla – only develops a while after it has been picked.  An old custom was to lie the dried foliage in between sheets and it is for this reason that the Rubiaceae family is also known as Bedstraw.   Another name for the plant is Baby’s Breath. 


Primula Vulgaris

Both flowers and leaves are edible, the flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens.

The leaves can be cooked in soup but preferably with other plants because they are sometimes a little strong.

The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine.

Primula vulgaris foliage contains significant amounts of vitamin C.

(Lemon Balm on the right!)

Lemon Balm

The plant is grown and sold as an garden plant and for attracting bees.

The essential oil is used as a perfume ingredient.It is also used in toothpastes.

Lemon balm is used fresh in herbal teas, often in combination with other herbs such as mint.

Lemon balm is also used with fruit dishes.

I have used it in Juicing and it has been known to have a slightly relaxing effect!

Chives (that’s Lovage in the background in my garden!)

Chives help prevent calcification of arteries. By consuming the allicin in the herb, the body can reduce bad cholesterol levels. Allicin helps optimize the flow of blood from the heart to other organs in the body. Chives also contain potassium, which aids in preventing problems such as heart failure, heart attacks, and high blood pressure.


Also referred to as spinach dock, sorrel is a plant known for its tart taste and powerful health benefits. This vibrant leafy green and its fruit are used to add a sharp, citrusy flavor to soups, sauces, salads, and beverages. Certain varieties are also used to make herbal teas, tinctures, and supplements.

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal discusses Sorrel as follows: ‘Sorrel is prevalent in all hot diseases, to cool any inflammation and heat of blood in agues pestilential or choleric, or sickness and fainting, arising from heat, and to refresh the overspent spirits with the violence of furious or fiety fits of agues; to quench thirst, and procure an appetite in fainting or decay in stomachs’.

Ground Elder

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a fast-growing, perennial plant that can spread quickly to form a carpet of foliage that can crowd out less-vigorous plants in beds and borders.

In the UK, ground elder is best eaten between February and June when it flowers, though its at its best as a salad ingredient in March/April, before its leafy parts are bigger than the palm of your hand.

Use in herbal medicine Traditionally used as a treatment for gout, ground Elder has also been used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, bladder, and digestive conditions. In addition, it has been used to make poultices, and to treat burns and stings.

Like most spring greens ground elder is a good source of vitamins A and C and iron. Medicinal uses of ground elder included making a poultice of the leaves and roots together; laid on hips for sciatica it helps reduce swelling and pain.


Mint is a perennial herb with very fragrant, toothed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white flowers. There are many varieties of mint—all fragrant, whether shiny or fuzzy, smooth or crinkled, bright green or variegated. However, you can always tell a member of the mint family by its square stem. Rolling it between your fingers, you’ll notice a pungent scent and think of candy, sweet teas, or maybe even mint juleps.

To relieve a tension headache, apply a compress of mint leaves to your forehead. Rubbing the oil on your temples will relieve your headache. 

Mint has been long known as an herbal remedy, easing queasy stomachs, calming stress and anxiety, and promoting restful sleep. Peppermint tea has long been viewed as an excellent way to ease an upset stomach, calming the digestive tract and alleviating indigestion, gas, and cramps.

Good in salads, sauces and drinks.


Dandelions pack a whole lot of vitamins and minerals into a small plant. “They’re probably the most nutritionally dense green you can eat — outstripping even kale or spinach,” Geib says. Dandelion greens, in particular, are a great source of vitamins and minerals such as: Vitamins A, C and K.

Dandelion leaves to be eaten raw are best when they are fresh and young. As they age, the leaves get increasingly bitter. But they are still edible, particularly if you blanch them before using them in your recipe.

Dandelion makes the only flower representing three celestial bodies during different phases of its life cycle – sun, moon, stars. The yellow flower of the plant resembles the sun, the dispersing seeds of the plant resemble stars, and the puff ball of dandelion plant resembles the moon.

I have used Dandelion leaves in Juicing!

Self Heal

Self-heal is used for inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), diarrhea, colic, and stomach upset and irritation (gastroenteritis). It is also used for mouth and throat ulcers, sore throat, and internal bleeding.

Self heal makes an excellent addition to one’s herbal first aid kit. Not only can it help promote healthy skin and tissue repair, it also carries a broad-spectrum antibacterial effect that makes it a wonderful herb to use throughout the wound-healing process (Holmes, 1989).

Self-heal has a mildly bitter taste and is cooling and drying to the body. On the physical body it acts as an astringent, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, mild antiseptic, detoxifier, diuretic, hemostatic and vulnerary (a substance used to help heal external wounds).

And…Bees love the flowers as with all the flowers in herbs!


  1. Another use for Sweet Woodruff is to make May wine. Snip off a few leafy stems and drop them into a bottle of white wine, then recork the bottle and let the herb infuse the wine for a couple of days. The taste is lovely.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to share that. Really useful to have information about all the different species together.

  3. I hope you had a good Easter, Eostre Colette. Such valuable plants, filled with natural vitality, at our finger tips. Yet people pay supermarket prices for plastic wrapped, sterile iceberg lettuce & spray gardens with herbicides. We can have healthy food & do our bit for nature without giving our money to chain store owners. Lovely to see the greening of your spring cottage garden.

  4. Thanks for this 🙂 I had forgotten most of these , but now have a renewed sense of purpose to open my eyes to the wonder of Mother Earth ! What a blessing to have all these super plants available to us !

  5. Such practical and useful information. Thank you, Colette. I have many of these plants, but didn’t know that the low plant with sweet purple flowers was Self-Heal. I am delighted! Thank you ❤️

  6. I’d forgotten that sweet woodruff has scent only after drying. Now I know my plants are just fine. Thanks for that!

  7. Thank you Colette, this was a really interesting post! I learned some new stuff about herbs which will be so useful 🙂

  8. Thank you for this! Every spring I have my “cleansing and calming” tea of dandelion/mint/lemon balm daily. In summer I put fresh leaves in a glass jar in the sun for hours – Solar Tea, warmed and infused by the sun. 🐇🐇🐝

  9. Thank you Colette for your email and post about the herbal medicine. I understand that these things will be of much use to those who know the knowledge of their use in the near future. Your care and desire to help others and the earth is an honourable goal. Shirley.

  10. Thank you for today’s post. I am beginning to learn more about various properties of plants and flowers so this was especially useful and interesting.

  11. I really enjoyed today’s post Colette. Some new herbal info for me Thank you.
    Cheers, Michael

  12. Oh, meadowsweet! I love it and will plant more in my paisley-shaped garden in the coming weeks. Thank you for mentioning them, Collette. Love your YouTube channel, envy you immensely. You are living the life I’ve always wanted. I try . . . the raccoons are all named “Rosemary Cooney”; the possum that lives in the carriage house is “Billie”; the groundhog that shares the carriage house is “Fleur”; there’s an alley rat named “Templeton,” and too many squirrels and their children to list names. There’s a resident cardinal who comes when I call him — now if I just had deer and rabbits, and maybe a badger, I’d be set! Instead of living in town, I need a hundred-acre wood, a cabin, and a cottagey garden. I’m working on the garden. Thank you again, Collete, for sharing your lovely life.

Your comments are welcome!