Clover is said to aid a range of conditions for athletes foot to menopause, with red clover being the most beneficial. Its sweet honey scent makes a delicious tea, and the greens can be eaten raw or cooked. Like the four leaf variety, the flower is also a symbol of good luck and helps keep bad spirits away.
Yarrow is an aromatic plant and has many medicinal uses. Its slightly bitter sage flavour lends it nicely to a foraged pesto or as part of a foraged salad. The leaves have been used as a hop substitute and as a natural preservative for beer.
Lady’s Bedstraw is a honey scented plant once used for stuffing the mattresses of pregnant women because it was thought to aid a safe delivery. The plant contains an enzyme that curdles fat so it has been used in place of rennet in cheese making, giving cheddar cheese its original golden colour.
Jenny Sturgeon entertained Rhynie at the Craw Stane during the summer dig of 2017. Her magical performance was accompanied by cheese toasties, fireworks set off from the Tap O’ Noth and a torch lit procession marking out the site of the original Pictish settlement. Thanks to Jenny Sturgeon for allowing us use of this video.
Ground Elder is sometimes referred to as bishop’s weed or goutweed and is commonly found in woodland and verges. It originally comes from the continent, possibly from the Romans and is best eaten as a green before it produces its crown of delicate white flower. As well as offering a nice carrot and parsley flavour to your meals, its diuretic properties give relief from gout. Although highly invasive, we feel that if you can’t beat it, eat it.
Raspberries line nearly every road in Rhynie, which means you are guaranteed a snack wherever you choose to walk in August. We have red and yellow varieties, the later we consider a Rhynie delicacy with their peach and banana flavours, offering a tropical note to the Rhynie wild food palate. The medicinal properties of the leaves and berries are associated with childbirth and pregnancy but the abundance of minerals in them and the natural sweetness they provide make them good for everyone. Toss in a fruit salad, make jam, or simply eat them directly from the roadside.
Common Hogweed is found dotted around the roadsides and verges and is one of our favourite Rhynie flavours, offering good eating at all stages of its growth. When the plant is young, the tender shoots are delicious steamed with butter or pickled in brine. After flowering, the crunchy green seeds can be harvested, making a completely unique addition to the Rhynie spice rack; zesty, spicy, bitter, and somewhat “limey”, these seeds pack a punch. Add to spiced mulled drinks, grind up in spice cakes, or use to make flavoured butter.
Hawthorn, or May-tree, is plentiful along the roadsides and verges of Rhynie, often used as hedging along fields. Although named after the month it blooms, the sweet and musky scented blossom flowers in June in Rhynie, and the flowers can be used to flavour cordials. The red berries can be harvested in the autumn, cooked and sieved, and made into a ketchup. The berries, high in pectin, also make an excellent jelly if mixed with other fruits to add flavour.
Wild Roses offer fragrant flowers for infusing cordials and then in the autumn, the rose hips from the rosebush provide a natural source of vitamin c. Otherwise known as itchicoos, children hoping to prank their friends would unleash the itchy seeds from inside a rosehip down the unsuspecting back of a victim. Once cooked and sieved, rosehips also make an excellent base for ketchup, and their jammy flesh can be used as a tomato substitute, just make sure to not eat the seeds.
Nettles were legendarily brought to Britain by the Romans to help invigorate their tired legs, but nettles were likely already here so the Rhynie Picts may have enjoyed a cup of nettle tea. High in minerals, nettles are a tasty alternative to spinach when carefully picked and cooked before flowering. After flowering, the seeds can be collected, dried and used as a nutritious seasoning to sprinkle on savoury dishes to supposedly aid the adrenal system.
Vetch is abundant in the verges and makes an excellent garnish to dishes. It has a pea-like flavour, and the flowers and leaves are edible in smaller amounts, making it a perfect addition to a summer salad. The purple flowers not only look and taste great, but men…try chewing one up, spitting it into the palm of your hand, and shaking hands with the woman whom you wish to control.
Photograph by Cathy MacIver.
At the crest of a small hill in a field as you enter Rhynie from the South stands the ‘Craw Stane’. This is a stone that stands approximately 2 metres in height and has engraved upon it 2 Pictish symbols. The top one is of a Salmon and underneath that is a Pictish beast. The stone has been proved to be in its original position and the Rhynie Man symbol stone was unearthed just a few metres from it.
Crop marks of three enclosures were identified by aerial photographs around the Craw Stane in 2005, two of which are probably ditched, while the other is palisaded, enclosing a total area of c 60 x 50m. The ditched enclosures appear to have entrances to the E. The Craw Stane lies between the two ditches at the southern side of the entrance area. A series of features was also identified within these enclosures.
In 2011 and 2012 Rhynie Environs Archaeology Project (REAP) carried out an evaluation of the Craw Stane enclosures that identified the cropmarks as a series of impressive earthwork and timber defences, consisting of an inner and outer ditch and an incredible outer palisade and post setting creating a timber enclosure wall. Inside the enclosures were a number of other structures including a post-built rectangular building or hall.
The palisade was made of massive Oak planks and within the palisade a series of structures have been identified. Finds within the Craw Stane ‘palace’ have indicated that Rhynie was once of great Pictish importance with the people who used this place being of immense wealth and status. Was this just a continuation of the population that was there before? This site was only used for approximately 100-150 years. What happened to them? What was special about the Rhynie area in context to the rest of ‘Pictland’ to warrant such luxury?
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Meadowsweet is found in boggy areas and verges, and is likely one of Rhynie’s oldest wild plants. It has been found in bronze age burials and its name is associated with mead, the ancient fermented honey drink flavoured with meadowsweet. The creamy flowers of the plant offer not only a vanilla and wintergreen aromatic flavouring to sweet drinks and teas, but also helps treat a headache and gastric conditions. We use it to make tea and to flavour Rhynie rootbeer.