In former times the prolific chickweed was a popular green vegetable sold by itinerant street vendors. It was eaten like spinach and said to taste just as good.
Chickweed, stellaria media, is a very common wild herb which grows in abundance all over England in gardens, fields, along country lanes and in waste places. Its creeping root system enables it to spread quickly and easily over the ground, especially where the soil is rich. Chickweed is a low-growing plant with small, soft, brilliant green leaves and tiny white star- shaped flowers. The flowers are in bloom for many months in the year.
Chickweed is so easily found that it can be used fresh for most of the year but it can be dried successfully for use in the winter months. The whole herb is gathered for drying between May and July. Care must be taken when drying chickweed as the soft leaves and delicate stems soon shrivel up if there is too much heat. It is then stored in the usual way.
Chickweed is known for its laxative properties and, taken occasionally is good for mild constipation.
* To make a decoction: Add a handful of fresh chopped chickweed to 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Strain and drink warm.
An infusion made with dried chickweed is an effective remedy for coughs, hoarseness and a sore throat.
* To make an infusion: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tablespoon of herb. Infuse for 10 minutes, strain and cool. Sip when the cough is troublesome.
For bruises, chilblains, heat rash and other skin irritations a chickweed ointment is effective.
* To make chickweed ointment: Wash 2 handfuls of freshly cut chickweed. Melt 4 heaped tablespoons of lard or shortening in an enamel pan and add the chickweed, mixing well. Bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, strain into pots and cover when cold.
Chickweed tea is said to be helpful in a slimming programme, when a small glassful may be taken first thing in the morning. Make the infusion fresh each day and do not take it for longer than a few days.
* To make chickweed tea: Pour ½ cup of boiling water on to 1 teaspoon of dried herb and leave to stand for 10 minutes before straining it,
Chickweed lotion helps to clear and refine the skin. Use night and morning on a cleansed face.
* To make the lotion: Pour 2 cups of boiling distilled water on a handful of herb. Cool. Strain into screwtop bottles. Keep in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.