High summer herbs

It felt like high summer on this week’s herb walk. Lots of plants – docks, nettles, hogweed – heavy with seed, almost pulling themselves right out of the ground as they reach for the sun. I ate the first blackberry of the season, tart but definitely ripe; the earliest ever that I can remember.
A lot of the flowers are over, but the later ones were in their element, especially yarrow, tall and gleaming in the sunshine, and limeflowers, making a cloud of scent around them, humming with insect life. We found field mallow, almost as generous with its soothing mucilage as marsh mallows, lots of agrimony, late clover and dandelions. Rosehips, elderberries and hawthorn berries are still to come, and it looks likely to be a bountiful harvest.
As always, the ‘walk’ was a very slow amble, especially because we were looking at the herbs in their living context: where they choose to grow, and their companions, whether plant, insect or micro-organism. Nigel Pinhorn of Devon Nature Walks was our guide, and there’s always something new to discover.
Each of us chose one herb to take a journey with, through guided visualisation. Usually, we take plants in only with our eyes, and possibly our noses, but there’s a great deal more we can find out through touch and taste. I hope the plants we worked with will be a little more familiar from now on. Certainly, if you want to work with their healing properties, getting to know their ‘characters’ is essential, and no amount of learning from books can substitute for this. Food for thought, but food for the senses too.