I have been noticing that this is not really a blog but a new calendar that I am developing, and possibly this is not the best format for these thoughts. I’m still pondering that. I’d like to be more candid, more flexible and more personal. Instead I am feeling compelled (the fatal flaw of any researcher) to find out everything there is to know about each plant of the day and then convey that all to you in clear and interesting prose. I am having a lot of fun, but I’m not sure how long I can keep this up. At least until the end of this month.
Today (Prairial 25 in the French Republican Calendar) is the day of the bed-straw (Caille-lait in French). There are many different kinds of bedstraws, all Galiums, including one of my favorite plants, sweet woodruff. Yet it is probably Galium verum that the French were thinking of, as this plant is also known as Curdle-Milk, because it can be used instead of rennet to turn milk into cheese (vegetarians: take note!). Another name for the plant is Our Lady’s Bedstraw, which seems to me to refer to the Virgin Mary, but many sources just say that medieval ladies used it to stuff their mattresses. The stems are soft and hollow and if it smells as good as woodruff, I think it would be very nice indeed.
The 17th century herbalist Culpeper says it is an herb of Venus and strengthens the parts of the body which Venus rules. He recommends putting the leaves and flowers into an oil, which is set out in the sun for ten to twelve days, then strained; or boiling the plant in salad oil with some wax melted within to make an ointment. This is good for burns, and also to bathe the fee tof “travelers and lackeys whose long running causes weariness and stiffness in sinews and joints.”
Mrs. Grieve has much to say about it in her herbal so I will refer you there:
Wikipedia also has a good article on bedstraw:
The illustration is by A. Joseph Barrish and is from a series of flowers related to Mary which are published in a book, Mary's Flowers: Gardens, Legends and Meditations, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1999 and on this website: