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Meadowsweet, apple and spearmint sorbet with cinnamon apple crisps

A refreshing sorbet enhanced with the vanilla-honey-almond flavour of meadowsweet

Meadowsweet and apple sorbet in a glass serving dish on a wooden chopping block
Meadowsweet has a long history of use, both as a flavouring and medicinally

Meadowsweet (Filipedula ulmaria) is a distinctive plant that beckons from the hedgerows like a creamy candy floss. It's a fairly widespread perennial that loves the damp and can typically be found in watery ditches and wetter field borders, flowering between June and September. It's a good plant for novice foragers as its smell and distinguishing frothy blossoms mean you are unlikely to mistake it for anything else. Its delicate flowers smell of honey and almond, although its leaves have a sharper and more medicinal (TCP/Germoline) scent. This contrast leant it the folk name "courtship and matrimony", alluding to the heady and sweet odour of the flowers and the more bitter smell representative of the realities of married life.

The "meadow" in its name does not reflect the plant's habitat preference but is in fact a corruption of "meadesweet" and references its historical use as a flavouring in brewing. It also has a long history of medicinal use, primarily for treating pain and fever. Its anti-inflammatory properties come from its salicylic acid content. When Bayer chemists Felix Hoffman and Arthur Eichengrun synthesised acetylsalicylic acid, which was to be trademarked as Aspirin, from acetic acid and salicylic acid in 1897, the salicylic acid was extracted from meadowsweet. "Aspirin" is derived from meadowsweet's old botanical name Spiraea ulmaria.

Meadowsweet and apple sorbet in a dish
Meadowsweet is often paired with apple

Meadowsweet's medicinal properties mean it isn't suitable for everyone and those under the age of 12, or who have an

Aspirin sensitivity, or suffer from a blood thinning disorder or asthma, or those on blood thinning tablets should avoid it. It should also be avoided during all stages of pregnancy and nursing.

Meadowsweet has long been a popular flavouring in cordials and herbal teas and lends itself well to sorbets. It's a particularly good partner for apple, although it works just as well by itself in an ice cream.

Be warned when preparing meadowsweet that many species of insect, especially small, black pollen beetles, are attracted to these flowers, nestling in the crevasses. It's worth leaving these to sit overnight to allow them to make their escape but they will more than likely also need a thorough rinse and pick through.


For the Meadowsweet syrup (makes approx 1l)

40g meadowsweet flowers

1l boiling water,

1k sugar

For the sorbet

5 Granny Smith apples

500ml meadowsweet syrup

4-5 spearmint leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

For the apple crisps

1 heaped tsp cinnamon 2 heaped tsp demerara sugar


Meadowsweet flowers in a sieve

- Strip the meadowsweet flowers and leave to rest for a few hours so the insects can make an escape, then rinse.

- Boil 1l of water and pour into a pan. Steep the flowers in the water for 2hrs. You can do this just by placing a sieve in the water, or you can put the flowers in a muslin if you prefer.

Meadowsweet syrup in a jug

- Measure the liquid and add 500g of sugar for every 500ml of liquid.

- Return to the pan and reduce for 1-2hrs until it forms a syrup. You should be able to judge consistency by how it coats the back of a spoon. The liquid will thicken further as it cools.

Peeled and cored Bramley apples

- Peel and core the apples, reserving the peel.

- Dice and place in a pan with 100ml of water and cook gently until softened.

- Allow to cool and then quickly whizz the cooked apple in a blender until it forms a coarse puree.

Apple puree mixed with meadowsweet syrup in a jug

-Mix the apple puree with 500ml of the meadowsweet syrup, add the lemon juice and churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

- Fold in the spearmint leaves just before pouring into a container.

- Freeze for a minimum of 3hrs or preferable overnight.

Apple peelings covered in sugar and cinnamon

- To make the apple peel crisps, preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan.

- Take your reserved peel and place on baking parchment on a baking tray. Sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon and toss to coat.

- Bake for 30 mins, tossing half way through. - Allow to cool and arrange on top of frozen sorbet scooped into serving bowls.

Learn more about meadowsweet or discover more about wild edibles and recipes on a foraging course

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!


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