November’s workshop was so
well attended, I decided to split the one planned for December into two, so
we could all have some more breathing space. The theme of the workshop was
herbal vinegars and honey.
We began by looking at the individual vinegars I’d made over the past year
or so –
• culinary: lovage, marjoram, winter savory, mint
• mineral rich: nettle, mugwort, motherwort, red clover
• medicinal: sage, hawthorn, golden rod, angelica, borage, bramble root,
rose petal, elderflower
These were tasted in cold and hot water either on their own or with honey to
sweeten them. Many people were surprised by the different flavours and how
pleasant they were to drink.
Everyone then made their own fire cider vinegar to take home from grated
horseradish and ginger, turmeric, paprika, garlic, onion and a fresh chilli.
I decanted some that I had made over a month earlier and everyone was able
to try it as a hot beverage with horseradish honey.
There were five infused honeys to smell and try – elderberry; wild bergamot;
horseradish, bergamot, evening primrose and apothecary’s rose petals and
dogrose petal. Each had their own unique flavour and texture.
We finished by creating our own salad dressings with either olive oil or
sunflower oil. Everyone agreed the fire cider vinegar was delicious with
sunflower oil, as was the rose petal and several others – a very different
kind of aperitif!
Looking back over the year, despite the difficult weather which put so much
of the herb harvest in jeopardy, it has been an exceptionally productive
one. Each year I grow over 100 different kinds of herbs in my two parcels of
land in Solihull and the Cotswolds. Not every herb is picked and processed.
Sometimes because there is no need, sometimes because the herb is in its
first growth year such as the sea holly which produced such vibrant blue
flowers or because it is struggling to survive, like the boneset.
During the past twelve months I have dried 45 different herbs, made 26
double infused oils, 34 tinctures with either vodka or brandy, 17 infused
vinegars, 5 honeys and 17 different syrups.
I have held ten workshops – six in the Sanctuary and four at home. Thirty
eight people have joined me from all over the country, some willing to
travel over two hours to experience the magic of Springfield Sanctuary first
hand. Twenty-six people (68%) were only able to make one visit, but nearly a
quarter of them returned for two workshops and three people (8%) made three
visits. Nearly a quarter of all those who attended had been before in
previous years or had come to the winter workshops and wanted to see the
Sanctuary for themselves.
It has also been a privilege to have three girls join the workshops aged
from 10-12 years. They have all helped to harvest herbs and make their own
oils or other items and have thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
I’ve also given four herb talks/demonstrations this year, one in Coventry
and three to residential homes or sheltered housing for older adults in
Birmingham. Everyone has had the opportunity to smell and taste and savour a
wide variety of different home-made products, from spice nettle latte to
hawthorn brandy liqueur. The feedback has been very positive and hopefully I
shall be able to do more next year.