Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Beauty of Yarrow

Yarrow, botanical name Achillea millefolium, is a stunning native plant that is useful in the hedgerow, the meadow and indeed the herbaceous border. The value of yarrow is not just in its beautiful flower heads and the way it attracts bees and butterflies, but, believe it or not, for it's healing powers.

Yarrow, shown here in the foreground has divided leaves
and flat white (or pink) flower heads

How to recognise Yarrow

Yarrow has flat heads of many white or pink flowers and blooms throughout the summer and often well into the autumn.  It thrives throughout the UK and you'll find it in rough grassland, road verges and hedgerows.  The leaves are distinctive - they have many many lacy fronds...hence the name millefolium which translates as thousand leaves.

If the leaves are crushed, they smell a bit like crysanthemums.

We've included Yarrow in the seed mix for Meadowmat because it tolerates mowing well, flowers happily for most of the summer and provides a valuable source of nectar throughout the summer. 

Uses for Yarrow

Our Production Manager, Robert, is famous in the office for eating almost anything...even my cooking but I wonder if he realises that yarrow is edible.....It can either be eaten raw in a salad or boiled for 10 minutes before being fried in butter.  I might let Robert try that before I indulge.

The "Achillea" part of yarrow's latin name is a reference to the classical hero Achilles who apparantly used yarrow to staunch bleeding on the battle fields of Troy and I'm led to believe it can also be used as a herbal remedy for problems with circulation.  Hmmm, I might have to give it a try this winter to see if it can help me avoid chilblains.  

Yarrow tea, is said to be a traditional remedy for the common cold.  Just infuse some fresh or dried yarrow leaves in boiling water for a few minutes then remove them from the water and serve the hot drink with a slice of lemon or lime.

Jennifer and Jemima, my buff orpington hens
But this is the yarrow application I'm most keen to try and I have two little helpers all lined up to assist with the experiment.  Rumour has it, that if you place a few pieces of yarrow in the chicken shed, it will help to keep fleas and mites at bay.  So tonight, before Jennifer and Jemima go to bed, I'll be cutting some yarrow stems from my Meadowmat patch and slipping them into the nest boxes.  Watch this space and I'll let you know if it works or not.
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