Sunday, 19 June 2011

Electuaries & Algae


Facing one of our last days in the classroom we elected to make electuaries – traditional homemade lonzenges of honey and medicinal herbs.  Too tempted by all the possible combinations, we could not agree on one only, so decided to make two different mixtures: one for the digestion and the other for soothing sore throats and aiding sleep. Both are made in the same fashion – very simply indeed:

Melt together over low heat, allowing to simmer gently until it starts to set:

Digestion Drops
½ jar of Honey (preferably a firm, crystalline set honey)
¼ tsp ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp ground Allspice
6 whole Cloves

Of course honey is fantastically good for you in its own right (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-bacterial, antiseptic and a nutraceutical) - and the combination of honey and cinnamon is even better. Articles abound on how it can prevent arthritis, boost your immune system, battle a common cold, fight or cure cancer and increase your lifespan.

Sleepytime Soothers
½ jar honey
Grated zest of ½ lemon
1 tablesppon of toasted white poppy seeds (soporific and sedative)

Once mixture thickens (and has fudgy consistency in the mouth – yum) pour quickly into moulds and allow to set for a couple of hours.  Remove from moulds and dust with Slippery Elm (soothing) powder before storing (or eating…)

Next on the agenda was a visit to the RBGE Herbarium to have a look at the seaweed collections (I need a bit of help with my identifications...), Helen Hoy greeted us and very kindly gave us free rein to explore the Algae. With the austere corridors of the Herbarium hallways are innocuously titled enormous tin cupboards that contain worlds within worlds of life, history and art.  

We delved straight into the 'Miscellaneous' drawers and extracted a 19th century collector's journals of Pacific & South Sea plants and algaes. Beautifully inscribed in cursive ink script, they retain a ghostly beauty and glimpse of sunny days gone by. Further notebooks revealed sojourns along Scottish and Irish shores and whimsical collages of seaweed baskets.

Our final hours were spent out in a patch of glorious sunshine, weeding and tending our herbal beds. They have taken on a new life with the rains of last week and several hours were spent quelling the boisterous growth.

No comments: