Meadowsweet grows in wet woodland, grassland, moorland and heathland; in damp areas where water levels rise and fall.
Meadowsweet is a herbaceous shrub, an upright perennial plant which grows to a height of around a metre.
The plants bloom between June and September, in small, creamy-yellow/white clusters or flower heads. Each single flower is only 5-10mm in diameter and a long stamen, which gives the flowerheads a fuzzy appearance.
Meadowsweet is renowned as herbal additive to honey-wine or mead, it’s use being recorded as far back as Anglo-Saxon times and in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. It is one of thirty herbs and spices added to the popular Norfolk punch cordial drink.
Meadowsweet has painkilling properties thanks to compounds similar to aspirin. It was steeped in water as a relieving tea before medicines for pain were widespread.
All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves can be added to soups, sauces or stewed fruit for an aromatic flavour, similar to elderflower. The roots are quite bitter and can be used as a tea substitute.
Meadowsweet flowers have a long lasting fragrance. In the past, the dried flowers were strewn across floors to perfume the home.
Meadowsweet flowers can be used to make a delicious, fragrant cordial.
- Strip the flowers from a large bunch of meadowsweet flowerheads (approx. 50)
- Bring 2 litres of water to the boil
- Add 250g of the sugar and add the juice of 2 lemons
- Add the flowers to the liquid
- Return the pan to the heat, and bring back to a simmer
- Immediately remove the pan, stir and leave, covered, overnight
- Remove the flowers, add a further 250g of sugar and boil for 5 minutes
- While still hot, decant the cordial into sterilised glass bottles and seal
The cordial will keep for up to 6 weeks in the fridge.
If you are going to forage for Meadowsweet, please follow the simple guidelines:
- Always be sure you are sure of the plant before you pick it and never eat any plant you are unsure of.
- Leave plenty behind for wildlife.
- Make sure you have permission to pick
- Only pick where plants are plentiful