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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Of Dead Roosters and a Medicinal Plant of the month

Permaculturists seem to have serious issues of not being able to let go of a good thing  Only 2 weeks after the end of the course 8 of us reconvened near Parma for a weekend.  The participants of this year's Permaculture Design Course have now renamed themselves the Company of the Dead Rooster, due to an unfortunate incident involving a rooster at the permaculture site in Scagnello.  Above you can see our new mascott.

During last weekend's meeting we... didn't actually do that much except for...

Observing nature (very important in permaculture!):

Attempting to light a fire in the time honoured way with a stick and tinder and a piece of wood...

...and of course a cigarette lighter...

.....we built a space saving, easy to empty compost bin from scrap material:

...Gathered some food from the wild:

 ...and just generally had some fun:

But enough of that.  In a break from my usual wild food of the month I thought I'll include a medicinal herb of the month, although it has some limited edible uses too: St. John's Wort hypericum perforatum.  This is particularly timely as the ideal time to pick this herb is supposed to be St. John's Day, which is the 24th June.  This is what it looks like:

It grows up to 1m tall on quite woody stems with pairs of delicate leaves, which if held against the light display small dots, which are oil oil glands.  The flowers are bright yekkow and slightly lemon scented.  The edible uses are that the leaves can be used sparingly in a salad, although I find them a bit bitter.  The more useful thing I imagine would be to use the dried leaves and fruit as a tea substitute as they are high in tannins.  The flowers are used to flavour liquers or mead.

The medicinal properties are much more exciting for this plant.  A tea made from the whole plant has been clinically proven to treat depression.  It is also anti-viral and a sedative.  Externally it is used in a manner of ways against all kinds of skin conditions from wrinkles to cuts and bruises, from varicose veins to haemorrhoids, burns, dry flaky skin, as an insect repellant, to treat rheumatism and gout and other pains and it is even being investigated as a treatment for AIDS.

The best way to use it externally is to make St. John's oil.  Stuff a load of flowers picked roundabout now into a glass jar, top with olive oil or soya oil and leave standing in the sun for some 20 days.  Strain and use on any of the above mentioned conditions externally.  A word of caution though:  Taken internally the plant interacts with other prescribed drugs including the contraceptive pill and reduces their effectiveness.  So always consult your doctor or herbalist before trying this.

Oh and you can find the plant pretty much all over Europe on the side of the road and hedge or woodland edges.

In other news, the weather is playing silly-buggers with us once again.  The first half of June it was unseasonally cool with temperature in the mid-teens Celsius with lots of rain, the second half of June it all of a sudden became tropical with temperatures nearing 40 Celsius.  It's crazy!  In the middle of this heatwave we've had two more helpers arrive all the way from sunny Spain, Saray and David.  Yesterday we picked plums with them:

..and then turned them into jam (the plums that is, not the helpers...) over an open fire, which in some ways was not the best idea on a scorcher like yesterday:

But hey we survived after doing a Spanish style siesta while the sun was at its most intense...

1 comment:

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Our plums are not ready yet so I was surprised to read you are harvesting. I love the mascot!