Season: All year, flavour is best November – March
Identification: Rosettes of trifoliate rounded, lobed leaves (quite similar to strawberry leaves) with smaller paired leaves further down the stem. Leaves on flowering stems (up to 70cm) are more pointed & angular. Yellow flowers have 5 petals & 5 sepals and look small in relation to the plant.
Edibile Parts: Leaves/flowers are edible but unremarkable. The interest lies in the small, fine aromatic roots and the the larger solid tuber on established specimens. Don’t use the long root-like runner that usually comes mixed up with the roots – it is tasteless.
UK Distribution: Very common
Habitat: Hedgerows and woods, especially along edges and especially path edges
Drinks Uses: Roots infused in sugar syrup or neutral spirit – or both combined to make a remarkable liqueur; as a warm, balancing bass-note in bitters, cordials vermouth etc
The fine roots have an earthy, warming mild clove flavour from the presence of eugenol, and tannins.
Works as a mulling spice in wine, cider, rum or whisky; sweet note in bittersweet preparations; great with apples & plums. Makes a great liqueur.
Important Note on Uprooting Wild Plants:
Usually uprooting wild plants is technically illegal without the landowners permission. Nobody is likely to object to you harvesting domestic quantities of hyperabundant “weeds” like wood avens, but don’t clear out whole areas. The roots are shallow and fine, so its possible to uproot, remove about 1/3rd of the roots, then replant, causing minimal harm to the plant.
This takes very little time and you can feel good in the knowledge that that you aren’t messing too much with the woodland ecosystem. This may seem like a fiddly job, but where wood avens is well established harvesting is quick and easy. Most of the work is in washing the fine roots when you get home!