What is an Herb Ally? I find it is an herb that brings itself to my attention and draws me to it.
Each student in the Herbal Apprenticeship is to identify and study their herb ally,communing with it, studying its growth habits, taste and aroma, drawing and painting it. Writing an ode to it perhaps. The main purpose is to understand the herb and it's lifecycle, it's properties both beneficial and negative and to discover just what it is that drew me to this particular plant.
The three plants below all seemed to attract my attention each time i went into the garden and i truly thought it would be one of them. Today i made Cleaver tea and drank the infusion. It tasted a little earthy and like fresh mown grass, not at all unpleasant. But no it is not Cleavers that will be my ally.
why? Mainly because i feel no connection, it is there but does not call itself to my attention. I discovered the same case with Chickweed and Comfrey, though i did pick both and study them carefully but no they will not be my ally either. They interest me but do not occupy nor call to me.
the winner is! .....
Each time i go into the garden the blue flowers draw me to them, so blue, so tiny and so dainty in their perfection they are Nature's masterpieces, the bees in the flowers are busy gathering pollen and the furry leaves make me wonder how they can be eaten. Yes this herb is going to be my ally. It is robust, prolific, i step over volunteer seedlings in the paths everywhere, useful and so beautiful it makes me feel good to simply look at it. I have discovered i have been spending time communing with it without even realising it. I have been photographing the bees in the flowers, weeding around them and dead heading the flowers which i am keeping in a bookpress. All this before i knew it would be my ally. Perhaps the Borage chose me?
My research tells me Borage has a taste reminiscent of cucumber and that it is very attractive to bees....i knew that of course , my borage plants are humming with bees.
Here is an excerpt from A Modern Herbal: ---"Cultivation---Borage flourishes in ordinary soil. It may be propagated by division of rootstocks in spring and by putting cuttings of shoots in sandy soil in a cold frame in summer and autumn, or from seeds sown in fairly good, light soil, from the middle of March to May, in drills 18 inches apart, the seedlings being thinned out to about 15 inches apart in the rows. If left alone, Borage will seed itself freely and comes up year after year in the same place. Seeds may also be sown in the autumn. Those sown then will flower in May, whereas those sown in the spring will not flower till June.
what a clever herb....it even gives off sparks and is slightly explosive according to the author Mrs M Grieve. That sound like fun.
i will try the tea and make a poultice for my swollen ankle. I will be eternally grateful for some relief from the dull ache and heat of the past two years since i damaged it in Saudi.
i will collect some seeds and sow them in pots to share with friends and in Summer will add that cucumbery flavor to my salads plus add the gorgeous blue flowers as a touch of exotica in my garden salads.
i have a new sketchbook and will draw it and paint it and maybe even write a poem about the beauty of the borage flower. I will make a borage infusion and add it to my homemade soap and will also test the stems for papermaking properties. This will be fun!
getting to know my herbal ally is just one of the tasks set for me in my herbal apprenticeship. Researching and learning will be a full time occupation for the next year. All the seasons provide changes in the plants and their properties so note taking and photography will form a large part of my studies. Planting and tending , making remedies and infusions, so much to learn!
Tomorrow i need to identify a tree in bloom and make a tea from the blossoms, then record the flavors and my reactions. Plum, nectarine, lemon, almond and apricot are all in flower, the Melaleuca will be a little later, as will the lilacs. Hmmm so much choice.