The third article of this series will be a quick guide to preserving and keeping your herbs in the best condition, either working with herbs from your garden or from wildharvesting. These tips
will help you prepare your harvesting trips and help you keep the herbs in their best conditions for medicinal and magical use.
In Your Garden:
- First of all, learn which part (or parts) of the plant are beneficial and which is their use, as different parts of the same herb can have different effects on your body and are ails for different illnesses; for example, the fruit of the Passionflower (Passiflora) contains the higher amount of vitamin C of all fruits, thus being a wonderful aid against anemia; but the leaves and roots are used against anxiety and mild depression in tinctures and tea.
- Always harvest during the first hours of dawn or the last hours of dusk – plants suffer when pruned during hard sunlight hours.
- You can either save small parts of the plant during growth as you prune your herbs, or harvest the complete plant after its natural cycle of life has ended. This is another step where research becomes very important; sometimes you can leave the roots on the earth for next year’s regrowth, and sometimes you can simply uproot the whole plant, clean the roots and set it to dry. When herbs have already gone to seed, the plant is exhaust
ed and usually has less healing power than a plant that has not seeded yet, so keep that in mind; what we do is keeping several plants of the same type, and leave some to seed to propagate for next year, and prune others to prevent them from flowering and use that herbs for teas and tinctures.
- Always remember to thank the spirits of your garden with an offering after harvesting – make compost tea, add powdered eggshell to the soil, or simply “clean” the herb by taking off all dry leaves and give it a good shower. If you have a garden altar (and you should), offer incense, candles, fruits, bird seed, etc.
- Keep a “wildharvesting kit” always handy in your car/backpack when going into Nature. Ours consists in a pair of hard duty kitchen scissors, a sharp small knife, rope for tying bundles and a selection of plastic bags, usually those long bags where sliced sandwich bread comes in and a few smaller ziplock bags for seeds or other small finds.
- Wildharvesting requires the utmost respect for Nature and its generosity – don’t be a Nature pirate! Harvest what is not necessary, harming the plant as little as possible and leaving enough of the plant for it to regrow and feed the local fauna.
- Forest spirits love offerings – remember to always give when you take. Bird seeds, fruits, stale bread/cookies/cereals/grain/cake, milk, crushed eggshells, compost… the options are as many as your mind can imagine. I have found that Forest Spirits do prefer offerings that are eco-friendly, so leave the candles at home and pour any liquid on the ground instead of leaving bottles or containers. Remember not to take any offerings that may be poisonous to local fauna.
Tomorrow I will post the second part of this essay – how to preserve your harvesting to keep its properties at its best performing! Until then – stay as green as possible ;) !
(In the picture - Catnip (Nepeta Cataria)
Today we were cleaning
out an overgrown border in our front yard, and preparing to take the ripped up plants to the tip (transfer station). As I went to grab an armful of plant material to put into Charley, there was a bird perched on top of it. A cockatiel. Now I have never seen one in the wild though subsequent reading tells me they are native to the area, but this was no wild bird. He sat there and let me approach him. Somebody's pet that escaped. Roger wrapped a cloth around him and we asked the neighbors if it was theirs...if not....did they have a cage? No and yes. When we put this bird into the cage, it seemed calmed. Another sign it is a pet. Probably hand raised. Further research tells me it is female. (or perhaps a juvenile...that is a possibility too).
We made our trip to the tip and asked the attendant....any birdcages? Yes! Two in that shed. One was very suitable and in great condition. Do you want anything for it? No.........
Cleaned it up, disinfected it, transferred the bird with only a few nips to Roger's hand.
We'll check with the local vet tomorrow to see if there is a missing bird reported and keep an eye out for notices on shop windows. But there is no way of know how far this bird could have traveled. She is asleep right now...seems exhaust
ed. Has been drinking lots of water and eating the food we already stock for our wild friends.
We may have a new companion.
A gift from the Universe?