Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria
Nothing quite beats the delicate honey fragrance of Meadowsweet on a warm, sunny day. This edible plant is very common throughout the UK and makes a great showing along riverbanks and country roadsides. It is a tall, thin plant, with the furrowed stems being 1–2 m tall, and reddish in colour. The toothed leaves are dark-green on the upper side and whitish and downy underneath. Meadowsweet has delicate, graceful, creamy-white flowers clustered close together in irregularly-branched cymes, which flower from early summer to early autumn. It will likely be the sweet smell that they emit that will be your main identifying factor.
Meadowsweet has a rich history, and is known by many other names. In Chaucer's The Knight's Tale it is known as Meadwort and was one of the ingredients in a drink called "save". It was also known as Bridewort, because it was strewn in churches for festivals and weddings, and often made into bridal garlands. It's beautiful fragrance also led to it being used as a strewing herb - strewn on floors to give rooms a pleasant aroma - and was purportedly a favourite of Elizabeth I in her chambers for this purpose.
The whole herb possesses a pleasant taste and flavour, with the green parts having a similar aromatic character to the flowers. As such, young shoots can be eaten raw in salads. It is also a popular constituent of cordial, wine, champagne, beer, mead, and many vinegars. The fresh flowers can be added to stewed fruit and jams, and many desserts, giving them a subtle almond flavor, and the dried flowers are also used in teas, washes, and tinctures, as well as potpourri. Meadowsweet has many medicinal properties, too, with the whole plant being a traditional remedy for acid reflux and stress. Compounds found in Meadowsweet also lead to the discovery of Aspirin.
Altogether, a very beautiful and versatile plant!
🐑 Grassland, including paddocks, fields and meadows.
🚜 Hedgerows, including field edges.
🌊 Waterways, including rivers, lakes and streams.
🏡 Urban Green Spaces, including scrubland, parks and gardens.
🌸🌞🍂 Mar - Oct
☘️ The top-side of the leaves are dark green with clearly-defined creases, and undersides are white and downy. The leaves have serrated edges.
🌷 Delicate, creamy-white flowers clustered close together in irregularly-branched groups. They flower from early summer to early autumn and smell beautiful.
🌱 Stems are is thin and reddish.
🍏 Has distinctive swirling seed pods.
Aroma / Taste
👃 The flowers smell sweet and honey-like.
👅 The flowers and leaves have a slightly medicinal, almond-floral flavour, which intensifies upon drying. Can overpower some dishes, so use sparingly.
🟩 ID Difficulty - Beginner
👀 The beautiful creamy-white flower heads are a key identifier of this plant.
👃 The fragrant sweet-honey scent of the flowers and crushed leaves is a key identifier.
🤚 The soft, white downy undersides of the leaves are also a key identifier.
🥗 Salad - Leaves can be eaten raw in salads.
🌺 Garnish - Flowers can be used as a garnish.
🌿 Herb - Can be used to add flavour.
☕️ Beverage - leaves and flowers can be used to make teas or other drinks.
🧉 Condiment - Can be used to make vinegars and sauces.
💊 Herbal Remedy - Is often used medicinally as natural pain relief.