Half a Hundred Herbs – Week 6 – Primrose
No kidding. I took this photograph this morning. While all the world is wet and cold and cheerless, in the garden this was happening. I hadn’t planned to write about primroses for weeks – not until April in fact, but when I saw these brave blossoms, I had to bump them up the list. I wouldn’t say they are my favourite flower – violets, roses and irises are strong contenders for that place – but they come close. Their demure and modest charm is something I can’t resist.
Primrose is supposed to be a cure for rheumatism and gout, according to Pliny. Culpepper talks about it as a cure for ‘phrensy’ because it is calming, and Gerard says it can be used to make a salve for wounds. I’m taking this from Mrs Grieve’s A Modern Herbal, from where I also learn that ground flowers were mixed into a kind of porridge with almonds and saffron – not a dish I fancy! I have candied the flowers to decorate Easter cakes. They are very pretty, and have a mild sweet honey taste. But I’ll be content just to see them brightening my garden for a little while yet.
These primroses are from a couple of years ago – up north of Helmsdale and a bit later in the year. They got a mention in this poem, which was first published by Northwords Now
Lost Village, Helmsdale
Here are come live with me hollows,
like the young seductive hills of Iceland,
their inclines catching the sun.
They are winter-burned, heather-bleached
to tephra-grey billows, an inland ocean.
No natural disaster ever came here,
No ash-cloud, fever, lava flow, but only
the suffocating tide of time,
of landlord’s greed, want, hardship, cold.
Croft-house gable ends rise from the grass.
The hearths are cold and deep in moss.
Sheep-walks and neighbour paths
ephemeral as breadcrumb trails.
The fields are gone to bracken,
wood sorrel, hidden primrose-banks.
The nettles still remember them,
in patches where the soil is deep and rich,
and skylarks, singing out their claim of right.