What is Sweet Woodruff and How Do You Use It?

Asperula, Quinsywort, Sweetgrass FR: Glycerie GER: Waldmeister IT: Asperula, Stellina odorosa SP: Asperula olorosa

BOT: Galium odoratum (Asperula odorata)

FAM: Rubiaceae ILL: Plate 5, No. 4

This is a perennial herb with white flowers, native to Europe and common wild in England in damp woods on chalk. Another English wild plant, squinancy wort, (Asperula cynanchica) is confused with it in some blogs (‘squinancy’ is an old, obsolete form of ‘quinsy’).

When crushed, woodruff gives off an aroma of new-mown hay and it is traditional in a variety of ‘cups’. It is the flavouring for the German Maitrunk (May drink) or Waldmeister Bowle, made by infusing the young shoots in Rhenish wine and adding brandy and sugar to taste. In France, it is infused in champagne, in Switzerland in cognac or Benedictine and in the United States there is ‘May wine punch’ (wine, brandy and Benedictine, once more). People say that woodruff helps to make a party lively, but herbalists say it is mildly anaesthetic. In northern Europe, it is used in certain kinds of sausage. Since sweet woodruff will increase rapidly if established in shady corners or under trees, it is a doubly good plant to have in a garden.

It has recently been noticed in some countries as potentially carcinogenic.

Quote from a letter from Arnaud Cazenade of Arnaud’s Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana, to Lea and Perrins dated April 1930.

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