Fragrant, sweet & with a delicate almondiness, meadowsweet is easily one of the most overlooked of all herbs. It even has the power to relieve pain! (Being the original source of aspirin.)
WHAT IS MEADOWSWEET?
Why meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) isn’ t a standard flavouring all over the world I will never know. With all the floral sweetness and lychee-like flavour of Elderflower ending in a rich marzipan finish, it can be used just like its for common coluinary cousin in all manner of cordials, jellies & even a mean homemade Turkish Delight. The frothy white blossoms pair fantastically with summer fruit like peaches, strawberries and gooseberries.
HOW TO GROW MEADOWSWEET
Being a native wildflower, Meadowsweet is perfectly adapted to our less than idyllic climate, thriving in rich, moist soil. The tall plumes make perfect horticultural bedfellows for the creeping matts of strawberries, with the two working just as well together in the kitchen as they do in the garden.
I have mine planted out with ever-breaing strawberries and the feathery leaves of sweet cicely (another native wildflower) in a chunky woven planter on my sunny patio, where they form a pretty, low maintenance garden feature that thrives on near total neglect under a young Asian pear tree. There are full details on exactly how to grow, cook and eat them in the homegrown revolution manual (i.e. my latest book)
FINDING MEADOWSWEET PLANTS
Loads of herb and wildflower nurseries all over the country stock both the seeds and plants of meadowsweet. You can even order them in a matter of minutes online. Here is a nifty list of suppliers to get you started.
HOW TO COOK & EAT MEADOWSWEET
Cooking with meadowsweet couldn’t be easier and can be used in all the same ways elderflower can. My favourites meadowsweet recipes team the herb up with summer fruits like peaches or raspberries. It works incredibly well with the fresh strawberries and sweet cicely (pictured above) both in the garden and in the kitchen. Come early July I gather all three to whip up into simple summer sorbet or blitz into a fruity smoothie (often with a cheeky spoonful of clotted cream whizzed in.) With it’s anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving chemicals, which have a very similar effect to aspirin, I feel that this indulgence can be justified under a medicinal guise.
However this summer was so soggy and wet, I thought what was really needed was something altogether warmer and more comforting so here is my take on a summer rice pudding.
MEADOWSWEET & STRAWBERRY RICE PUDDING
1) STIR 4 sprigs of meadowdweet together in a bowl with 100g of strawberries (wild or cultivated) into quarters & 1 tbsp of sugar. Cover the mix and leave in the fridge to macerate (soak) while you get on with the rest.
2) STEEP Another 8 heads of meadowsweet and 4 large sweet cicely leaves (optional) in 2 pints of whole milk in a saucepan. Flick on the heat and bring to the boil. Just as it begins to simmer take the pan off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 mins.
The sweet cicely adds a very mild hint of aniseed, but more importantly it has the almost miraculous ability to significantly reduce the amount of sugar needed to sweeten the recipe – in fact by up to 50%!
3) STRAIN the steeped milk through a sieve to remove the spent flowers and leaves & return this milk to the saucepan.This infused milk also makes a wonderful base of custards, ice creams, panna cottas, creme brûlées and cream caramels.
4) STIR in 100g of pudding rice into the infused milk (this will look way too little – but keep the faith!) & simmer gentley over a medium / low heat for 30 mins or so until cooked, stirring occasionally.
For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Meadowsweet check out pg 190 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!