A bit of a surprise, now the weather has got warmer, is the appearance of lots of cowslips (Primula Veris) in our orchard. Cowslip is a rather pretty little low growing herbaceous perennial plant. It very often appears where there are little or no ‘inputs’ of fertiliser, moss or weed killer. So that is a good sign!
The deep yellow flowers are produced in the spring between April and May; they are in clusters of 12-25 together on a single stem 6-18 cm tall, each flower 10-14 mm broad.
It is frequently found on open fields, meadows, and coastal dunes and clifftops. It is often included in wild-flower seed mixes used to landscape motorway banks and similar civil engineering earth-works.
Cowslip is a favourite food of wild rabbits- of which we have plenty in the gardens at Homelands!
It is used medicinally as a diuretic, an expectorant, and an antispasmodic, as well as for the treatment of headaches, whooping cough, tremors, and other conditions. But not by us.
Cowslips were once made into wine – a much more attractive idea.
An ancient name for the plant is "paigle". Another name, herb Peter, derives from the tale of St. Peter dropping the keys to theGates of Heaven, with the cowslip springing from the spot.
In the nineteenth century, cowslips were used as a garland on maypoles.
Cowslip leaves have been traditionally used in Spanish cooking as a salad green. Uses in English cookery includes using the flowers to flavour country wine and vinegars; sugared to be a sweet or eaten as part of a composed salad while the juice of the cowslip is used to prepare tansy for frying. The close cousin of the cowslip, the primrose (P. vulgaris), has often been confused with the cowslip and its uses in cuisine are similar with the addition of its flowers being used as a colouring.