The beautiful Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) has been flowering for the last number of weeks around the country and will continue over the Summer – in some parts of Ireland you still find it flowering well into Autumn! I was out harvesting Filipendula recently for making medicines and wished to share with you
some very important tips on harvesting this wild plant. End of June and July are the busiest harvesting times for a medicinal herb farmer. It’s really all year round between root harvests and wild harvested medicinal trees but most medicinal herbs reach their peak during this month in the Irish Summer.
Flower harvested herbs like Calendula and Chamomile need continual picking over Summer to produce more flowers and then other herbs like Meadowsweet (where you harvest when in flower) need to be done carefully because of our damp climate. If we get a very rainy June and July, you can miss a whole year’s harvest of some herbs!!
For Meadowsweet we use the leaves and flowering tops but often, I would harvest the leaves separately before it begins flowering. This is because sometimes by the time Meadowsweet is flowering the leaves are damaged. Here are some images a common damage you see on Meadowsweet leaves. These leaves should not be picked for medicines.
If you have a nice patch of Filipendula appearing on your land or in a clean place, clearing around the patch to expose the lower parts of the plant to more air flow will help with leaf fungus’ or mildew. In airy spaces where moulds are not an issue be sure to keep a keen eye out for the other types of damage. Don’t forget: always identify a wild plant properly before harvesting and ensure you are taking it from a non-polluted, ‘clean’ place free from animal excrement and chemical sprays.
Meadowsweet is home to many little bugs. Hanging the herb and shaking it reveals an abundance of these wee critters. Be sure to shake them off before drying it or using the plant for making vinegars glycerites, oils or tinctures.
On a flowering head you will notice parts in full bloom and other parts with unopened flower heads. It is best to harvest these whole heads rather than flowering heads at a later stage where some parts have just finished flowering as meadowsweet flowers wither and ferment quickly. If you are making fresh plant medicines like vinegars or tinctures from this plant it is best to process them asap because of this. For many herbs I let them wilt before making them into infused herbal oils. For Meadowsweet oil it’s best to either do a faster hot oil infusion with the fresh plant or dry it completely before making oils. The same is applied to drying – it needs to be done asap before flowers sweat or ferment. This is best done in a herb dryer at a warm temperature. Over the years we have made different herb dryers, some solar, some with dehydrators and fans. If you wish to learn more about growing, harvesting, drying and making your own plant medicines, we’ll be back teaching our hands on courses from Ivywood in 2021. If you would like to know more about Meadowsweets medicines uses there is a short video on our website www.ivywood.ie