Mugwort is worth a try. If you first think of Harry Potter and his friends brewing potions at the Hogwarts School of Magic, you’re right. This delicate herb is part of the school’s repertoire. In the "muggle” world, however, mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is an essential ingredient in many German and Central European dishes. Called Beifuss in German, the culinary herb’s slightly bitter, astringent flavor and aroma significantly enhance the taste of fatty dishes: goose, duck, eel, pork or lard spread (Schmalz).
The Mother of Herbs
Known as a natural remedy in Ancient Greece, mugwort is called the mother of herbs because of its versatile use in herbal medicine and cooking. The herb's essential oil cineol is known to alleviate pain, help the digestive tract and calm the nerves. In dried format, the plant imbues an herbal flavor reminiscent of mint and juniper. It sure is bitter, but when added to fatty meat, fish or herbal soups at the start of the braising process, mugwort greatly enhances the dish's umami flavor. You can find mugwort in gardens, on meadows and alongside forests all over the Northern hemisphere.
Ancient Germanic tribes used mugwort to make wreaths during solstice festivals, as aphrodisiac and fertility potion. Its exceptional versatility spawned many names over the centuries. In German, it is primarily known as Beifuss. Other names are Wilder Wermut (wild wormwood), Besenkraut (broom herb), Johannis - (St. John's -), Sonnwend - (solstice -), Jungfern - (virgin -), Mutter (mother -), Weiber - (midwife-) and Gänsekraut (goose herb)
Mugwort's peak harvest time is between July and September. Thus, it is “must use” seasoning on the Weihnachtsgans (Christmas goose), in winter soups and one pot dishes.In Springtime, dried Beifuss adds aroma and flavor to herb soups, green sauce, vegetable and egg dishes . In Summer, chefs season fried duck or eel, fatty pork and veal shanks, and all kinds of fish dishes with mugwort. And in Fall, it provides a kick to lard with fried pork bits (Griebenschmalz), used as spread on fresh or toasted bread. Try our mugwort seasoning from German spice maker Alba and add a teaspoon to fatty meat that is braised in a sauce or slow cooked