Herbs, as everyone knows, come in plastic packets at the supermarket. But, would you believe, that’s not the only place to find them. As part of the Grow London fair, herbalists Kim Walker and Victoria Chown from Handmade Apothecary will lead a walk on Hampstead Heath, pointing out the useful plants you’ll find growing wild in London. Here's five of them you can forage for yourself:
Feeling stressed? Try lime blossom
How to spot it: The heart-shaped leaves often grow in clumps at the base of the tree. The flowers are creamy white.
Where to find it: In parks and city streets, blossoming in June. Time to get picking.
How to use it: Stressed? (This is London, so we’ll assume the answer is yes.) A small handful of lime blossom steeped in boiling water can be a relaxing remedy. Add honey for a sweet-tasting nightcap.
Got a bruise? Try daisies
How to spot it: Everyone knows how to spot a daisy, right? Yellow centre, white petals.
Where to find it: Carpeting lawns and fields.
How to use it: Daisy-chains, of course. They’re also good for bruises and sprains. Place clean flowers in a jar and cover with oil. Let it sit for two weeks, then strain and use externally.
Got a papercut? Try yarrow
How to spot it: Each leaf is covered in small, feathery fronds. Yarrow can grow to almost a metre tall, with big, flat clusters of white flowers.
Where to find it: Meadows and lawns.
How to use it: If you find yourself with a cut or a scrape, crush clean, fresh leaves or flowers and apply. No wounds? No worries. It can also be drunk as an infusion to stimulate digestion.
Hayfever sufferer? Try broadleaf plantain
How to spot it: Broadleaf plantain has roundish, ribbed leaves and long, green flower stalks that give it the oh-so-appealing nickname ‘rats-tail plantain’.
Where to find it: Lawns, fields and meadows beside well-trodden paths.
How to use it: Plantain has anti-allergy properties and are good for wounds. Crush a leaf and apply to bites or cuts to soothe inflammation. In infusions, combined with elderflower and nettle, they can ease the symptoms of hayfever and sinusitis. If that sounds too wholesome, mix leaves with kale, salt and oil, then stick them in the oven to make crisps.
Cystitis?! Try marsh mallow
How to spot it: It grows tall and almost shrub-like, with big pink-purple flowers with heart shaped petals. The leaves are covered in a silvery down.
Where to find it: The marsh mallow likes damp places like, erm, marshes. It can be found in ditches, too.
How to use it: The leaves, flowers and roots contain an anti-inflammatory (not to mention gloopy) substance known as mucilage. Perhaps not the most appealing tipple, but it’s good for gastric irritation and cystitis when drunk as an infusion. The flowers and the seeds are edible and tasty in salads.
Explore more of the great outdoors in London with our round up of to hidden gardens and green spaces in the city.