The height of summer signals a golden haul, as Weleda harvests its organic Arnica Montana crop. The company’s Swiss-German origins reflect those of these mountain flowers – the large, buttery daisies first used by Swiss mountaineers to relieve aching limbs, then in the rest Europe from the 16th century for the treatment of wounds.
It’s probable that the mountain animals knew it first, as shepherds have historically reported that sheep and goats would recover swiftly from falls and injury by grazing on arnica – the miracle herb which soothes inflammation, speeds the repair of damaged tissue, dilates the blood vessels and stimulates natural mechanisms of repair.
From bruising to cramp and toothache to swelling, arnica’s healing efficacy is widely acknowledged. Used as a balm, it can relieve rheumatic and muscular pain, stiffness and an aching back from too much weeding.
Cold mountain comfort
To ensure optimal results, Weleda’s mountain flowers in the UK are grown to strict biodynamic standards in the colder climes of north-east Scotland, to lie beneath the snows of winter and breathe a little easier. They are harvested in the cool of the morning and transported directly to be processed, their petals still vivid with light.
Weleda’s arnica range is used by more than a dozen premier league football teams and rugby clubs, where the cost of injury is high and the very best treatment is essential.
Back at our Kentish allotment, we will be planting our own family arnica for home-spun tinctures and compresses. We’ll be applying biodynamic principles, consulting our biodynamic calendar and looking to the full moon for help with germination. Elsewhere on the plot, we have been feeding the hungry cauliflowers with rotating infusions of nettles, weeds and dandelions, and protecting their fussy curds from the sun with the outer leaves.
From plot to plate
We continue to soothe ailing plants with camomile and work on balancing our compost piles, sowing green manure on unused beds. We are pulling spuds and plucking from cascades of ripe tomatoes. Broad beans are still bountiful, and the beautiful borlotti beans are showing their vivid, mottled pinks and purples.
We take leaves as we need from the abundant pak choi, the red kale, cavolo nero and red cabbage, and the herbs are dizzying in their vibrancy and scent. We use them fresh, and also dry them in bloom, slung from the pan rail in our ramshackle little kitchen with our garlic plaits.
We have been freezing podded beans – for throwing into those autumn and winter pots – and pulsing tomatoes into passata, to store for those pizza and pasta nights.
Moving towards August, we will be barbecuing our beautiful sweetcorn; the kids’ favourite of the season. Then we’ll be freezing some with peas and sugar snaps from the earlier summer. We are saving our seeds, beans and kernels for next year’s planting, and there will be dried corn, too, for film night popcorn with blankets and lights out.
This is how our joy in seasonal growing continues; with the widening scope of symbiosis and satisfaction. We sit by bonfires with vegetables and cobs on sticks, taking in the birdsong and bruised colours of evening – it’s summer at its most wondrous and plentiful.
Product of the month: awesome arnica
This age-old plant has a plethora of healing benefits.
‘Arnica was a rarely used prep at home, until our two intrepid girls entered the picture. It’s something we have come to rely on: as a herbal cream to take down the swelling and severity of a bruise, and in various other guises – notably the arnica soak – to ease tired, sore and overworked muscles.’ Eminé Rushton @eminerushton