Look Out! Granny’s Nightcaps Are Blowing All Over The Woods

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Wood Anemone . Anemone nemorosa . Windflower . Grandmother’s Nightcap

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I hadn’t meant to go wild flower hunting. I was only intending a quick dash along the old railway embankment beside the Linden Walk. A bunch of wild garlic leaves was the objective. They had started appearing soon after the second snow, and I’ve been cropping them on and off since early February. Now all the shady ground either side the former track bed is carpeted in clumps of lush, green, garlicky leaves.

I’ve found that chopping them into a jar and steeping them for a week or so in unfiltered cider vinegar makes for a delicious salad dressing ingredient. You can also treat this as a general spring tonic – a dessert spoonful in a big glass of water. The leaves are also good in a pesto sauce instead of basil, and you can chop them with abandon into soups, curries and casseroles. When they start to flower, you can use the tiny white florets too.

Anyway, as I picking my way through the undergrowth I came upon the wood anemones creating their own little galaxies under the lime trees. They are one of the loveliest of our spring flowers, and their presence is an indicator of ancient woodland. In his Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey also says they do not seed, but their roots spread very slowly in dappled shade. If you spend some time with them, you will see how they turn their faces always towards the sun. Less appealingly, their foliage is said to have the musky odour of foxes, though I can’t say I noticed any such smell when I sniffed the leaves.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

36 thoughts on “Look Out! Granny’s Nightcaps Are Blowing All Over The Woods

  1. That opening shot is a breath stealer, Tish! 🙂 🙂 Funnily enough our Monday walk had us in coastal woods with many of the same. Had no idea about the wild garlic though, you wonderfull fount of knowledge! Happy Wednesday! Sunshine at last! Well… almost 🙂

      1. Well it’s trying here. Hoping to walk back from t’ai chi in golden sunlight which will spread your way. Sorry about the superfluous ‘l’ xx

  2. I love this beautiful flower as well as the backstory of how you happened upon it. Such a treat to come upon something so simple yet magnificent. Thank you for taking me on this walk through your wood.

    PS – The Captain loves your suggested uses for wild garlic leaves…he is the cook aboard Amandla much to my delight.

  3. I didn’t know that name for them, must pop over to Tehidy and see if any grow there. We don’t seem to get the ransoms either this way on. Only the wild onion. Again I think I need to find woodland, but the one down the hill doesn’t appear to have any flowers at all.

      1. Just pulled some up and they have white bulbs like spring onions, taste quite mild, but yes, possibly useful in a frittata or salad.

  4. Love their own little galaxies description I can picture them like little stars. Would the wild garlic leaves be related to the cultivated garlic? That would be a very potent drink combined with cider vinegar, the vinegar on its own is eye watering… 😢

    1. Yes, they’re alliums, not as strong as cultivated though the leaves start to smell quite strong when the weather heats up. As to eye-watering cider vin – well I agree, some varieties definitely are. More water and a bit of raw honey to reduce the tears 🙂

  5. What a pretty little flower. The leaves look like something I have seen but don’t think I have seen the flower. Now about the wild garlic.Would garlic chives do the same. I have a lot of that and have never known what to do with it.

  6. like a waterlily of the woods in that first shot Tish. I like your dressing recipe! I have Allium triquetrum and will use that in the same way
    p.s. Wild garlic reminds me of boarding school days and wild times in the woods -but that is another story

    1. I think your wild anemones come in more vibrant colours than ours, and have much larger flowers too. They look more like the strains we have as cultivated plants in the UK (some Victorian plant hunter must have collected them), though the cultivated versions don’t seem as airy and beautiful as your wild ones.

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