As the holiday season nears an end and we approach the start of a new school year, it is an excellent time to consider boosting our immunity ahead of the winter months.
In nature’s wisdom, plants grow at the time of year when we need them.
Sharing their virtues for our health and wellbeing in order to support our body through the challenges different seasons bring.
Along the hedgerows you can’t help but notice the bulging bunches of elderberries hanging from the tree, ripening from green to purple.
As natural dye fanatics we loved to discover that the Romans used these berries as a natural hair dye, boiled in wine to make the hair black.
Certainly, it provides an initial bright purple dye on fabrics although being fugitive the colour won’t stay bright for long so enjoy the beauty while it lasts!
Like the bark of the elder tree the berries can have a purging effect on the bowels but their most common use is for our immune system.
These magic clusters our full of Vitamin C and antioxidants something we need most to fend off infection and secure optimum iron absorption. One cup of elderberries contains about 50 mg of Vitamin C with the recommended daily amount being 75mg for women and 90g for men.
There are numerous ways to enjoy elderberries such a drying the berries to make a tea, wine, making them into a jam with other hedgerow favourites like blackberry and hawthorn or adding them to a crumble.
Our favourite is as a syrup which is made from simmering berries and a sugar until it gets to a thick consistency. Whilst you can make it with sugar I prefer to make it with honey so you get the added anti-bacterial immune boosting properties of local honey. If you have a sore throat the consistency means it coats the throat nicely too. Make sure not to boil the honey and render it less potent.
500g of juicy plump destalked elderberries
400g of sugar or honey
1 lemon juiced
You might like to add 3cm of freshly sliced ginger, a cinnamon stick or a star anise if you prefer a depth of flavour.
Place the berries into a saucepan and cover with about 1cm water. Add any spices you desire.
Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 mins until the berries have softened into a liquid.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve
Measure the liquid and for every 500ml of liquid add 400g of sweetener.
Tip the sweetener and the liquid back into a pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Leave to cool and bottle in sterilised jars.
This will keep for about 12 weeks in the fridge or freeze cubes in trays and use as you need until next season!
With all the flowers around, Spring and Summer are a great time of year to indulge in some Hapa zome. Hapa what? You ask.
Hapa zome. The term meaning “leaf dye” is a Japanese printmaking technique invented by artist India Flint using pigments in leaves, flower to produce lovely detailed prints.
In Japan this technique is actually known as Tataki Zome but India’s name has taken off and most refer to it as Hapa Zome now.
It basically involves selecting a basket of interesting bright flowers, leaves or berries and using a hammer (a wooden mallet works best if you have one) to hammer this selection onto fabric. You can use cotton or linen and silk is particularly effective.
So the colours from the plant material last longer and bind better we recommend mordanting the fabric either using alum or milk (instructions below).
Wash your fabric in the washing machine and let it dry naturally, soak the fabric for 24 hours in milk, spin off the milk in the washing machine and let dry naturally, place the fabric back into the milk and repeat this process around three times. Then leave the dried fabric for 3 days before using for optimum effect.
Place your fabric on a hard surface and arrange your flowers, leaves and berries as you wish.
You can hammer directly onto the flowers themselves but I like to fold material over the top in order to get a mirror print.
Whilst the idea with this technique is to experiment which we always encourage. We have had good results with some of the following so you could start there: Rose Petals, Eucalyptus leaves, foxgloves, marigolds, geraniums, common catsear, dandelions, nettles.
Tag us @bedstrawandmadder with any of your creations.