Small, light green and rather inconspicuous, woodruff grows in almost every deciduous forest. In spring, the herb is one of the first plants to sprout from the ground again after winter. Depending on the location, woodruff blooms as early as the beginning of April until June. Due to its distinctive aroma, the delicate herb is often used for drinks and desserts. Woodruff is particularly well known in May punch, which was already drunk in the Middle Ages at the start of spring in May and was considered at that time as a "merrier from the forest".
The origin, properties and history of woodruff
Woodruff (Galium odoratum) belongs to the rennet herbs and is found exclusively in deciduous forests. The 10 - 50 centimeter high plant can be recognized by its star-shaped, white flowers. These are surrounded by numerous corollas, called whorls. The leaves of the woodruff grow up to eight centimeters long and have a rough surface.
Originally, the woodruff comes from Eurasia. According to legend, it was discovered by the Benedictine monks in 850. They used the herb as a foodstuff for the first time and produced the very first May punch, which was still known as "May wine" at the time. Before that, woodruff was used exclusively as a medicinal plant and, for example, tied around the feet of childbearing girls to ease the birth. Today, the herb grows in all areas with a temperate climate and is used both in cooking and in natural medicine.
The ingredients of the woodruff
The most important ingredients include essential oils, bitter substances, tannins and coumarin. Coumarin is a chemical compound that is responsible for the typical aroma of woodruff. However, this aroma only comes out when the plant cells are damaged by crushing or wilting. Fresh woodruff can therefore only be recognized in nature if you take a closer look at the leaves.
In the 1980s, coumarin was considered harmful to the liver and carcinogenic. This statement has since been refuted, but woodruff should still only be enjoyed in moderation, as too high a dose can lead to nausea, dizziness and headaches.
The effect of woodruff on our body
Woodruff has been used in natural medicine for centuries. Thanks to its active ingredient coumarin, the rich green herb helps with sleep problems, migraines and headaches. In addition, woodruff has a spasmolytic effect and is therefore ideal for combating abdominal pain. Due to its blood-thinning effect, it also strengthens blood vessels and thus prevents vein problems.
The woodruff in the kitchen
used. Only then is the typical woodruff flavor that we all know. Woodruff is often used in spring to enhance drinks and desserts. It is particularly popular as jelly, ice cream or as syrup. But also in the famous May punch and in pies, the delicate herb does very well.
Purchase and storage of woodruff
It is best if you pick the woodruff yourself. Its characteristic shape and intense smell make it hard to confuse. But if you are unsure, you can also find the small green herb from May to June at weekly markets or in well-stocked vegetable stores.
Woodruff usually withers very quickly and should therefore only be stored in a dry and airy place for a short time.