ANU is on the lookout at the moment for signs of life amongst the hedgerows. Some back garden and roadside herbs have stood valiantly throughout the winter, even if this forager didn’t. One particularly hardy plant is Chickweed, or Chicken Wort. Loathed by gardeners, but loved by herbalists, this floppy sprawling plant, described by the herbalist Levy as ‘one of the supreme healers of the herbal kingdom’, has a host of magical properties. Indeed, it might sooth the mood of many a gardener if they knew the power behind the so-called weed, that is so easily pulled up and dumped on the compost heap.
It’s high in vitamins A and C, has a reputation for clearing stubborn skin conditions, such as eczema and varicose veins, has a special affinity for the eyes, lungs and chest – and it’s free and widely available! Externally, it can be used to soothe itches, bites, stings, burns, sore eyes, even sunburn, bruises and splinters – it’s as simple as pulling up a handful and placing it on the affected area, or crush it into a paste in a pestle and mortar. Taken internally, chickweed works well on dry coughs, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions, blocked kidneys and gallbladder and piles. It is even valued in some quarters as a slimming aid. Whatever you believe, it won’t do you any harm, and you can have year round pesto from it if nothing else!
Blend together a large handful of chickweed, removing any larger stems, along with a good handful of pine nuts (walnuts also work well), a clove or two of garlic and enough olive oil to make it into a good pesto constituency. Serve it on pasta, baked potatoes or add some vinegar to make a salad dressing.