hist-brewing: Wild Rosemary (Ledum palustre)

Donald Beistle dbeistle at arches.uga.edu
Fri Dec 3 14:26:43 PST 1999

The recent post regarding gruit herbs sent me surfing about for info on
Marsh/Wild Rosemary, the only herb in the Durden Park Brewing Circle gruit
ale recipe to be unavailable commercially. My cursory inspection reveals
the following:

Ledum palustre is available in one form or another from various herbal
medicine companies in Europe and the US. It also appears on a list of
"Giftpflanzen" (poisonous plants) at one German medical advice site. Ledum
palustre is known as "Sumpfporst" (meaning "swamp-something") auf Deutsch.

The only worthwhile information I found in English was at
<<http://www.gardenbed.com/1/4791.cfm>>, a page at a horticultural site
that reveals Ledum palustre to be a member of the family Ericaceae (making
it a relative of heather??). The following statement appears under the
rubric Known Hazards: "Plants contain a narcotic toxin called Ledel. This
toxin only causes problems if the leaves are cooked for a long period in a
closed container."

The Vikings in our midst might enjoy leafing through an on-line edition of
a Swedish botanical atlas from the first quarter of this century,
available at <<http://www.lysator.liu.se/runeberg/nordflor/>>. The text is
in Swedish (I think, it might be Norwegian) but illustrations are gorgeous
and encompass such brewing herbs as hops, yarrow, myrica gale, juniper,

Finally, the Branneriet Kronan, a Swedish distillery spices some of their
aquavits with "skvattram, or 'getpors' as the spice ledum palustre is
called in Swedish... In Finland this spice has long been recognized for
its ability to act as an aphrodisiac.... Ledum palustre grows wild and is
harvested by hand in Lapland. The leafs [sic] are extracted for a few
weeks in alcoholic solution. The extract is added to the process in the
last preparation of the aquavit thus giving it a slight green yellowish
color." <<http://kronansprit.com/page17.html>> cf. -/page 23.html

All best,

Donald Beistle
Athens, Georgia

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