Many of you will have seen heather in the background of the pictures present on our website and on our Flickr page. Scotland’s purple covered hills are deservedly iconic and they are best experienced between August and September. Here are some facts, uses and stories involving heather.
Heather was once commonly used for bedding as a mattress could be constructed easily from great bundles of it. It has also been used for brooms and thatching material. Osgood Mackenzie – who wrote the book A Hundred Years in the Highlands – noted that heather has also been used as an improvised sieve. He stated that:
“There was a big pot hanging by a chain over the peaty fire, and a creel heaped up with short heather, which the women tear up by the roots and with which they bed the cows. The wife took an armful of this heather and deposited it at the feet of the nearest cow ... to form a drainer. Then, lifting the pot off the fire, she emptied it on to the heather; the hot water disappeared and ran away among the cow's legs, but the content of the pot consisting of potatoes and fish boiled together, remained on top of the heather. Then from a very black looking bed three stark naked boys arose one by one, aged, I should say, from six to ten years, and made for the fish and potatoes, each youngster carrying off as much as both his hands could contain.”
Heather has been used to flavour beer in Scotland since 2000 BC. It gives the beer a very floral and fresh taste and it can still be purchased easily today. The entrances to hidden caves where whisky was illegally made were nearly always hidden by heather covered doors (heather was used because it has a very shallow root system). This meant that the entrances to these illegal distilleries became virtually invisible.
Bees which are bred in a heather covered area create a very distinctive honey. This honey has a particularly strong taste and it also has an unusual jelly like texture until stirred.
Heather has traditionally been seen to be lucky. Many parents will give their children sprigs of heather just before big exams or place bits of white heather in bridal bouquets, for example. Despite the fact that heather is truly abundant in Scotland, many unsuspecting tourists will often be sold tiny bunches of it for £2 a pop!
In the coming months we will be expanding our product range. Some of our new lightweight worsted wool scarves have a purple in them which is very evocative of the heather covered hills in Summer. We are sure that you will enjoy them. Our current range of handmade scarves can be purchased here: http://www.malcolmmowats.com/collections/all