meadowsweetthumb.JPGAnother riverside plant in its prime at the end of June - Meadowsweet.

What Is Meadowsweet?

Filipendula ulmaria - A slender, aromatic perennial - growing to 2 metres tall in favourable conditions (fond of damp places such as meadows and river banks)..


At first glance, this plant looks like it belongs in the Umbelliferae - with its pinnate leaves and big, flattish clusters of creamy-white flowers - but it is in fact a member of the Rose family.

meadowsweet2.JPGThe leaves, when crushed, are powerfully aromatic and the flowers have a strong, sweet fragrance that has been compared to almonds, vanilla and honey (indeed the common name Meadowsweet appears to be a corruption of 'mead wort' - further reinforcing the honey conection).

meadowsweet3.JPGI decided to give it (what is fast becoming) the standard treatment that has worked so well for Elder and Lime flowers - that is, steep the flowers in water, sugar and lemon juice, then strain and bottle.

Ridding the flowers of their myriad tiny beetles was deeply tiresome - I shook many insects off while collecting - others left when I spread the flowers on a tray and left them for an hour, more bugs dropped out when I tediously checked every inflorescence by hand. but still, a lot of them floated up and crawled out when I later added the water.

I think I was finally successful in removing all of the fauna from the flora, but it really was a chore.

meadowsweet4.JPGSo there it is - 2.5 litres of water, a big double handful of flowers, 120g of sugar and the juice of a lemon.

meadowsweet5.JPGThe next day, the mixture was fermenting really quite enthusiastically, so I strained it into bottles - the two full bottles will be left for a fortnight (same as for lime or elder flowers) - the part bottle won't keep so well, so I'll chill it and taste it tomorrow...

Wow! The next day, it has fermented a lot and there was phenomenal pressure and fizz in the bottle - must be a lot of natural yeasts on these flowers (a sprig of these might be good for kick-starting a batch of elderflower, if it seems sluggish, which sometimes happens).

Anyway, the drink is quite surprisingly distinctive. Very fizzy, sweet and with an intense and quite pure almond flavour. There's a bit of an odd twang on the nose, but that might just be the yeast from the initial rapid fermentation - and might attenuate a bit in the bottle.

Definitely a pleasant drink, but I can't imagine quaffing gallons of the stuff, just because the flavour is so strong - it's like drinking liquid marzipan - but it might work quite well as a cocktail mixer, maybe along with elderflower, or with something quite sharp or bitter.

Smaller bottles next time.

Meadowsweet Connections

As mentioned above - the common name for this plant appears to relate not to meadows, but to mead - the alcoholic drink made from fermented honey.

Also interesting is that the plant contains Salicylates - chemical components related to Aspirin. In fact, the name 'Aspirin' is derived from an obsolete botanical name for this plant (Spiraea).