Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sweet Woodruff

This pretty little ground cover grows rampantly in shaded areas, one of the few herbs that prefers a shady spot. A hardy perennial reaching 8 -10 inches in height, the leaves are attractive little whorls all summer long but in May it bursts forth with sweet little white flowers. An endearing plant that grows wild in central Europe, undoubtedly, it was brought here by the German settlers who missed Waldmeister. Translated as "master of the woods" the German nickname tells how much they thought of the little sweet woodruff.

Interestingly, Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), is not particularly fragrant until it is dried, when the sweetness intensifies and is released. We gather it now and dry it in the oven at 150 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes. Store the herb in a dark jar for later use. Sweet Woodruff was often used in days gone by to stuff mattress pads, both for its fragrance and insect repelling qualities.

Traditionally, sweet woodruff is used to prepare maibowle, a delicious wine. Add sprigs of dried woodruff to your favorite dry white wine. Allow it to steep for several hours before serving. Apple juice can be substituted for wine. Steeped overnight, it has a surprisingly exhilarating effect and always makes a tremendous hit whenever it is served.
May Bowl or Sweet Woodruff Punch:
1 C dried sweet woodruff
1 bottle of dry white wine or apple juice
1 bottle of lemon lime soda
fresh strawberries sliced
1 orange sliced
sprigs of sweet woodruff
Steep the woodruff in the wine or apple juice overnight. Strain and pour over ice in a large punch bowl. Add soda to taste and garnish with fresh fruit and herbs.


PeggyR said...

My swwet woodruff is blooming also. It is such a dainty flower.

Bernideen said...

I know nothing about this herb - so much to learn! Your cookbooks arrived and the High Tea Pamplet - wonderful!

Rhonda said...

It's such a pretty little herb, I wish I had someplace to plant it where it would live happily ever after!

Karen said...

Do you have any other recipes using Woodruff? I make May Wine with it each May, but never have found any other culinary uses. I'm trying to develop a sorbet recipe with it, but would like to hear of other uses. Thank you!

Kristina said...

I grew up in Germany and we use it for flavoring Ice Creams, making a sweet syrup with it and mixing it with either club soda or champagne. We also make gello with it. Right now, I am trying to find Sweet Woodruff tea, as I live in Florida and it is way to hot here to grow.