Coltsfoot, comfrey, and gorse… but wine?

I have a very small, pocket-sized book called Home-Made Wines and Liqueurs: How to Make Them, by Ambrose Heath. He was a prolific cookery book writer, editor and journalist, born in 1891 and dying in 1969. The book was one of a series by various authors, and included Ice Cream Dishes, Cocktail Snacks and Canapes, Dishes Without Meat and Biscuits and American Cookies.

Many of the wine and liqueur recipes are from fruit and vegetables, as you might expect, especially from a book published in 1953, not long after the war, when people were using what they readily had to make things they otherwise could not get. So, apples, apricots and blackberries, and well-known other ingredients such as dandelion and cowslip – and even such things as beetroot and carrot… But coltsfoot (“this well-known picturesque if pernicious weed (tussilago farfara) whose bright yellow-rayed flowers appear before the leaves in early spring”) comfrey (“this unusual wine made from the roots of wild comfrey (symphytum officianale) which is commonly found in watery places and on the banks of rivers and streams”) and gorse (ulex, furze or whin) – isn’t that rather prickly?

Hedgerow wine sounds delicious, but mangold? I think mangold is what I know as manglewurzel which is a type of beet most commonly used for animal feed, but also edible for humans – but there is another mangold which is a type of chard – I cannot imagine using that to make wine! Other roots with recipes, turnip wine, parsnip wine and potato wine – tomato? I don’ think so ,not for me thanks… Sage wine? Sounds utterly disgusting! Red clover wine?

Imagine picking two quarts of red clover blossoms – a quart is two pints or nearly five cups… Come to think of it, imagine picking two quarts of flowers from the prickly gorse! There is no mention of the quantity of coltsfoot, but another recipe I came across says five litres of the little things – where would you find that quantity? And as for the roots of the comfrey you have dug up from the banks of your local stream, according to Mr Heath you need four or five roots cut into pieces four or five inches long – not very exact!

Here is a link to the coltsfoot wine recipe:

Lichen some winter colour!

We’ve had a lovely weekend spent with some very dear friends; the sun shone on us and we enjoyed being out and about. I was amazed to find so much colour in the second week in December…


Old man’s beard – wild clematis




The heads of teasels were used in cloth manufacture… I’m not quite sure how, though, I have heard different stories!


Little pink wild geraniums… and yellow things




Gorse and the Bristol Channel, and in the distance, Wales

Yours cordially…. or your cordial

I was having an exchange of comments about tea wine, the recipe of which I came across recently. From that came the idea of maybe a tea cordial and I thought that sounded rather refreshing and nice… if only I could decide on which tea and which recipe for cordial.

I had a little intent trawl and came across recipes for blackcurrant, elderflower, rhubarb, gorse flower – wait a minute gorse? Really? Oh well, maybe… also apple and blackberry  lemon, nettle – well if you can have gorse then you can surely have nettle, lime, orange, strawberry, and raspberry…

Now I’m intrigued! Hannah Woolley who was born in 1623 and an early cookery writer give a recipe for lemon cream cordial, and an even earlier writer, Elinor Fettiplace gives a variety of recipes for cordials, syrups and juleps, including rose petal, violet, herbs, rosemary, sage, purple clary, and red cockle (otherwise known as field Nigel’s weed – no, I’ve never heard of it either!)

I have actually made rose petal jam and it was so aromatic, so deep in colour and flavour… so maybe next summer rose petal cordial? In the meantime I’m going to try something else… but which?