One of the many plants shoe-horned into my back garden is Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum). We’ve had it for about five years and it forms an attractive ground cover plant, with fanned stars of leaves topped by small white flowers at this time of year. It tends to spread but it doesn’t mind being pulled back from swamping other plants and, other than that maintenance, is wonderfully undemanding. It is also relative of Goosegrass, Cleavers or whichever of the numerous common names you know the ‘weed’ Galium aparine by.
What I had’t realised until recently was that Sweet Woodruff is also edible. Some caution needs to be exercised as it can have diuretic and anticoagulant effects (not recommended at all for those on blood-thinning medicines) but there are various culinary and medicinal uses for it.
The one I tried today was a tradition strongly associated with Germany called Maewein, which simply translates as May Wine. A small portion of leaves are steeped in white wine and then, after straining, the wine is served. All sorts of variations exist – I simply took three leaf clusters, washed them and set steeping in the fridge in 50ml of the Albariño I had left from last night alongside an equal measure of wine in another glass.
After 30 minutes, there was a perceptible taste difference and, after a total of 90 minutes, there was enough of an effect for me decide to conclude the experiment. Albariño is a dry white with a mineral finish; after steeping the woodruff, it took on much more depth. If I had to pin to a flavour, I’d go for vanilla but that doesn’t do it justice. It was like the golden hour in photography, where low, warm light transforms a scene, or like adding chorus to a guitar, creating a sound you can bask in.
May is almost done but I might cheat and try this one again in June!