CULTURE OF MEDICINAL HERBS – A SUCCESSFUL ENTERPRISE NEAR EVESHAM
One of the results of the war has been the stoppage of the supply of medicinal herbs from Germany and the consequent attention given to home cultivation. The Co-operative Society at Littleton and Badsey, near Evesham, have taken up the matter with success, and they have founded what is thought will become a valuable industry in South Worcestershire. The society in 1917 concentrated in belladonna and henbane, these being the two herbs most urgently needed, and their belladonna crop represented one-fifth and henbane one-fourth of the total needs of the country. The society embarked on this enterprise soon after the outbreak of the war, but little information was then available as to the cultivation and drying of herbs. Growers had to experiment, and they have evolved methods which are giving excellent results. In 1915 the value of the crops grown was £2, in 1916 £17, and in 1917 very nearly £6000.
The most difficult matter has been the proper drying of the leaf, on which much depends, as any defect in the drying process causes great loss of the alkaloid. In 1915 the drying was carried out in two sheds heated by stoves, but last year it was found necessary to erect a drying shed which, with apparatus, cost £1300. The readiness of the small grower to place his savings at the disposal of the society was one of the satisfactory features of the undertaking.
In the past year the society have dried over 148 tons of green herb, nearly all of which has to be dried in four months of the year, as the herbs are spoiled if they are not dried within a few hours of cutting. Most of this was belladonna, the cutting of which began in June.