Waldmeister (Sweet Woodruff)

What is Waldmeister (sweet woodruff)?

Waldmeister is the German name for sweet woodruff, literally translated to master of the woods. It is also known as sweet-scented bedstraw or, simply, woodruff. The scientific name is Galium odoratum, sometimes also called Asperula odorata, and belongs to the family of Rubiaceae. This is a perennial plant (lives for more than two years), which means it comes back every year.

What does Waldmeister (sweet woodruff) taste like?

Waldmeister‘s sweet scent is given by the high content of coumarin, an aromatic organic chemical compound that resembles the sweet scent of vanilla, with a bitter taste, therefore animals tend to avoid it.

What is Waldmeister (sweet woodruff) used for?

As the name odorata/odoratum suggests, the plant is quite scented and used for aromatizing alcoholic and soft drinks (brandy, wine, beer, syrup), jellies, jams, ice cream, and herbal teas.

Is Waldmeister (sweet woodruff) poisonous?

In small quantities, sweet woodruff is safe to use. However, excessive consumption is toxic and can lead to unwanted side effects like headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

Where can I find Waldmeister (sweet woodruff)?

In Germany, you can find Waldmeister at the markets starting with the end of April or in the forest. You can also plant it at home.

How can I plant Waldmeister (sweet woodruff)?

You can plant sweet woodruff either in the garden or in a pot. Make sure to plant it in a shady place. I got the best results by planting it under a tree. When planted in a pot, make sure to keep it away from the direct sun. This plant loves shady places (full shade or partial shade) but hates sunny ones.

When to harvest Waldmeister (sweet woodruff)?

The sweet woodruff is best picked before the beginning of flowering. It usually blooms from the beginning/mid-April to the end of May/beginning of June. However, its flowering time depends strongly on the location and the weather conditions prevailing there. When harvested, the plant has barely any fragrance. Only when it wilts, it develops its popular coumarin aroma: sweet odor and a bitter taste. The highest coumarin content can be found in the plant while flowering so usually the plant is harvested and used before that. By doing so, you get the most flavor of sweet woodruff. The flowers are not poisonous, but less aromatic.

How can I store Waldmeister (sweet woodruff)?

After harvesting sweet woodruff, wash it, dry it, and put it in the fridge in a paper towel till the second day so that its aroma can develop. The second day you can use it in beverages and syrups. If you want to dry it for tea, I suggest keeping it in the fridge till completely dried or freeze it overnight. You can use it in herbal mixes or store it by itself in a dark dry place, away from sunlight. Pay attention: it’s quite aromatic so you should use only a little bit.

You can make a delicious Maibowle (German May Wine) or aromatic liqueur for cakes.

Maibowle (German May Wine) in a glass, with fresh strawberries and waldmeister (sweet woodruff)
Maibowle (German May Wine) in a glass, with fresh strawberries and waldmeister (sweet woodruff)