Today I began explorations into the glorious plant that is Wood Avens (Geum urbanum), a herb that thrives in my rather damp garden and which yields some fantastically aromatic roots. I’ve got quite a few clusters of it around the garden (somewhat fewer now, mind you, since I’ve dug up a few for experimenting with!) and since it graces my little patch of paradise with yellow flowers every spring and has been used for quite some time now as a basic digestive tonic, I figured it was high time I finally dug some up and had a look at it.
Its surprisingly easy to uproot and remove the soil from around these plants, actually – a decent trowel and a minute loosening the soil and the plant slips free, leaving most of the soil behind. A good soak in a large dish of cool water and the golden side shoots can be snipped off with kitchen scissors before a more thorough washing. Not a hard job at all, actually – I’ve worked with many a root that takes more scrubbing than these little beauties did! The main rhizome doesn’t extend down that far – no more than an inch, really – and once the leaves are snipped off, has interesting bands of madder pink as well as the golden yellow colour of the side roots. This is the point at which the scent really starts to come through! It is described as a combination of cloves and ginger, but its somehow more than that as well. It is musky and smokey and sweet as well as spicy, with hints of galangal and nettle and even the tiniest bit of burdock to it, and that is in roots gathered in damp ground, early in the month. I’ll gather more later in the spring, when things have grown some more and the ground has dried out a load more.
This current lot of roots have been used to make the beginnings of an elixir in brandy with honey, which I shall leave to steep for at least a month. I also made a milk and honey infusion, which turned out rich and tasty and sweetly rooty rather than overly spicy. I’ll try that one again next month as well.
Herb Bennet, Wood Avens, is a wonderful warming gently spicy digestive tonic, well suited to flatulence, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea and other issues where the stomach is not functioning at its usual level. Its warming for the stomach, and suits those with poor appetite and poor digestion, as well as for those who find food sits like a lead brick. I’ll do more work with this plant over the summer, and will report back on the efficacy of an elixir of it. I suspect it could be used to make quite a tasty tonic wine actually by adding a tablespoon of the chopped root to a bottle of red or white wine and letting it steep for a week. Luckily the golden side roots chop very easily with the mezzaluna, making it reasonably simple to prepare! The leaves can also be used but are not considered as strong as the roots. As with many of the aromatic plants, it is best used fresh as that delightful scent fades quickly upon drying.