Herb of the Month: Hawthorn
The hedgerows are suddenly alive! Just as the blackthorn trees go from flower to leaf, their cousin the hawthorn (both are rose family members) takes the cue from sun and Earth and explodes into blossom. In the west of Ireland, the hedges and the fairy trees are illuminating (though some delayed this year) with the creamy white and rarer pink blossoms of Crataegeus oxyacantha, known commonly as whitethorn or hawthorn. The vanilla scent wafts across the land and our eyes take in the welcome beauty, the harbinger of the season of Bealtaine, summertime in Ireland.
Hawthorn in Celtic Heritage
Hawthorn is one of the thirteen trees of the lunar Ogham calendar and generally represents the time from mid-April to mid-May. In Irish, hawthorn is known as huath and is the letter H in the ancient Irish Ogham alphabet. Hawthorn holds significance for the fire festival of Bealtaine which begins the season on May 1st. Traditionally the blossoms would be gathered for May altars and it was believed you could be whisked away to the fairy realm if you sat beneath a hawthorn on this day.
Hawthorn in Medicine
Hawthorn has an esteemed place in our folk medicine: all parts of the tree have healing properties including the leaves, flowers, stems, thorns and berries. Hawthorn nourishes the heart, physically regulates the beat and strengthens the cardiovascular response. With regular use hawthorn strengthens the heart tissue, eases angina and palpitations due to anxiety or hormonal response. Hawthorn berry tincture warms the heart and softens anger. In tea or tincture, hawthorn lowers blood pressure and brings vitality and efficiency to the circulatory system. The berries, stems and thorns are high in antioxidants.
The flower and leaf tea is incredibly delicious! Harvest a handful of vibrant blossoms with a few leaves and cover with water off the boil. Allow to steep for 3-5 minutes, strain out the herb and enjoy the comforting and sensual taste of honey and vanilla. For a decadent summertime treat, infuse a stem of hawthorn blossoms in your bottle of crisp white wine (sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio) or in fresh-squeezed lemonade. Allow it to steep for a few hours, then remove the stem/ blossoms and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh flowers over the top.
Hawthorn leaves and flowers can be harvested and dried to be used all year long.
By Tonja Reichley, Herbalist, Bsc, MBA, www.dancingwiththewild.com
Accommodation Close by
(for Friday and/or Saturday night)
In Roscahill Co. Galway- 5 mins drive from Brigit's Garden
Rockfield House B&B, www.connemara-galway.net 091 555586
In Oughterard, Co. Galway: 10 mins drive from Brigit's Garden
Camillaun Lodge, www.camillaun.com 091 552678
The Boat Inn, www.theboatinn.ie 091 552196 (family rooms from €78)
Ross Lake House Hotel, www.rosslakehotel.com, 091 550109
The Connemara Lake Hotel, www.theconnemaralakehotel.com 091 866016
Oughterard Hostel, www.oughterardhostel.com 091 552388
There is plenty of other accommodation listed at www.discoverireland.ie Follow links for accommodation and search for Moycullen or Oughterard.
Please spread the word, follow us on Facebook and Twitter!! Book your tickets early to avoid disappointment!
Slán go fóill :)*
Driving along the N59 from Galway city you will pass through a small town called Moycullen. Follow the festival traffic signs.
A few kilometres after this you will reach the small village of Roscahill. You will then see a brown heritage signpost on the left hand side of the road with Brigit's Garden name on it pointing to Turn Right. Take this right and the entrance to Brigit's Garden is on the left approximately 2km from this turn (after the community centre and church on the left hand-side).
For those using GPS or Google Maps, they may direct you turn right at Connemara Motors but it is more efficient if you continue onwards with the festival traffic signs.
GPS Coordinates for Brigit's Garden:N: 53.38558 W: 9.2131
Please pay attention to the signs for the overnight carpark and day carpark during this event.