‘Admire too the tall bushes of Southernwood, with their bloom of down, and the sharp spikes which grow on its wealth of branches like finest hair.’
– Walafrid Strabo (c. 808-849)
Despite looking particularly sickly over the winter months, the Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum L.) has bounced back with amazing vigour in the warmer weather. The etymology of it’s Latin name is unclear: it may have been named after Artemis or Diana, the Roman Goddess of the Hunt and Moon. Also known as Lad’s Love and Old Man, it has the most beautiful, citrusy, unique scent – you can tell why the medievals liked it as a moth repellent! – but is a challenge to cook with, due to its bitter taste. A pinch of the leaves in a fresh leaf salad adds a zesty bite and I’m currently experimenting with it in a seven herb sauce dating from the 12th century.