Herbival, a new festival at the Garden Museum

Posted: May 20th, 2021

The last year has witnessed a national surge of interest in gardening and nature and the powerfully therapeutic effect both have on us. Two veritable beacons of joy, amongst all the angst and tribulations of the dreadful Pandemic.

Vic from handmade apothecary picking alium triquetrum (wild garlic)

Vic from www.handmadeapothecary.co.ukpicking alium triquetrum (wild garlic)

An extract from The Heritage Herbal by Sonya Patel Ellis

Capitalizing on these trends, the enterprising curator and writer Natasha Goodfellow is organising Herbival, an exciting new one-day festival at the Garden Museum gardenmuseum.org.uk/events/herbival on the 6th June, to celebrate all things herbal, with workshops including how to press herbs by Sonya Patel Ellis (http://www.abotanicalworld.com) and grow herbs, foraging walks setting off from the museum exploring the nearby neighbourhood, talks and tastings.

Natasha was inspired by the recently published ‘The Botanical City’ by Helena Dove and Harry Ades, which shows that our urban spaces are brimming with as many plants as rural settings, and the fact that the Garden Museum has been lent a first edition of John Gerard’s famous 1,484-page Herbal published in 1597. ‘They both struck a chord with me. I find it fascinating to discover that our city streets are strewn with weeds with beneficial uses.’

‘We have largely forgotten how much we rely on plants for multiple things such as medicine, clothes, perfumes,’ says Natasha, adding ‘everything has become so mechanized.’

She goes on to point out that in the middle ages many women had extensive knowledge of the properties of herbs and their medicinal uses. Alas sadly this often led to them being hounded as ‘witches,’ and subsequently many met untimely deaths. However, Henry VIII was a great believer in herbal medicine and passed a Charter in 1543 protecting the practice of herbalism.

Fresh herbs from www.hackneyherbal.com

A thrilling assortment of fresh herbs from www.hackneyherbal.com

Nettle Soap with lavender and may chang by the Fifield Road Apothecary

Wild nettle soap with lavender and may chang by www.fifieldroadapothecary.com

There will also be an array of delicious herb-led merchandise on offer including many soaps, and cosmetics made with natural ingredients. Many of these products are the fruition of a personal quest for a solution to an ailment or skin problem. The merchandise ticks all the right environmental criteria – with much of it being plastic- and palm oil-free, not tested on animals, and vegan. ‘They won’t be spreading horrible toxins through your home.’

Herbal tea by wilderbotanics

What could be more soothing than a cup of Rose Hip and Passion Flower tea by www.wilderbotanics.com

And best of all, where many ‘wellness’ experiences can be prohibitively expensive in swanky 5* spas, the festival will demonstrate that the myriad benefits of herbs can be available to almost everyone whether a city or a country dweller. Herbs can be grown on a windowsill or an allotment, you don’t need a large garden. What could be more uplifting than making a cup of lemon verbena tea with your very own leaves?

Anyone with the slightest interest in herbs will find much to delight at Herbival. Workshops must be pre-booked.

For those interested in the properties of plants the  forthcoming 5 x 15 event on the 7th July will be of great interest. Monty Don and Michael Pollan author of ‘This is Your Mind will be discussing why our relationship to the natural world is vital to our wellbeing and culture.