Herb gathering

What’s the best way to get value for money, top quality and no problems with adulteration? Go out and harvest your own herbs. Take a good flora – or better still, go along with someone who knows their herbs – and start to sample the abundance on offer. Now is the time for late flowers like yarrow and mallow, seeds and fruits like fennel and native blueberries, and, of course, the fungi. The best time for the leafy parts of a plant is before it flowers, and the best time for roots is when the aerial growth has died back, but that still leaves plenty of choice.

Walk along a typical hedgerow, for example, and within a hundred yards you are likely to find goosegrass, ribwort, yarrow, nettles, dandelion and dock, to name just a few that are all in frequent use by modern herbal practitioners. Look a little further and you will find many more. Choose healthy plants, take just a little (and remember you can’t dig up wild flowers, though you can pick the more common ones), and leave enough for the plants to survive. Try things out; don’t be afraid to experiment. None of the herbs I’ve mentioned will do you any harm – though obviously not all fungi are useful, and some are definitely best left alone. Seeing the plants in their natural habitat, alive and growing, will deepen your understanding of your favourite herbs in a way that books never can.

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