Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wild Harvesting

Noticed earlier this week that the farmer who lives next door has moved his one cattle herd into the meadow close to my house. So that was a sign for me that it was time to get out to his meadow and do some wild harvesting before the cattle have stripped the meadow.

Finally on Wednesday morning, after several days of rain (which made harvesting anything to be dried impossible) I got out to the meadow. Thankfully my neighbor has given me permission to wild craft from his meadows at my leisure, as long as I'm sure the bull is not in that particular meadow at the time.

So that is the first lesson of wild crafting, be sure you have the permission of the land owner to traipse across their property and gather things you may need. No one wants to be hurt by something they are not aware of, be it the bull or the farmer with his shot gun.

The second lesson of wild crafting is to be sure you are at least 50 ft. away from any highway or location that would add any type of pollutant to the plant. Harvesting along roadways or highways or even close to manufacturing facilities will bring home whatever the plant has been breathing, be it carbon monoxide from car exhausts or whatever is coming from the exhausts of the factory.

The third lesson is to never take more than you need, and always leave enough of the plant (particularly if you are after roots) that the plant will come back next year. I would never want to destroy a future crop by taking the entire plant. Then I would have to find a new source next year for the same plant. Trust me there is more than enough for everyone, in my case for me and the cows!!!

This week in the meadow I harvested red clover blossoms, alfalfa, blessed thistle, and some plantain. I also harvested jewelweed, just not from the meadow.

The clover, alfalfa, and thistle I have dried some to store for whatever may come up this winter and with the remainder I have made some tinctures. (We will get to tinctures in the coming weeks, I promise) The plantain I have put in the freezer until I get around to making one of my salves, probably sometime next week.

Jewel weed, this one I want to share my process for preserving this wonderful plant for use over the coming year. Here is a picture of the plant before I harvested a bit for my use.
I don't know about you, but I am allergic to poison ivy. It seems that all I have to do is look at it and it is all over me. Thankfully years ago I learned of the wonderful connection between poison ivy and jewel weed.

I had a teacher tell me many years ago that for every allergy nature throws at us, nature also has the cure. Jewel weed is nature's cure for poison ivy. The only bad thing about this wonderful plant is that is doesn't grow over the entire year like poison ivy. I know that come spring when I am beginning my work in the garden, I'll come across poison ivy without realizing it until it is too late and I've already had it in my hand. So how do I ensure that when I need the jewel weed, it will be available. Particularly since it doesn't really show itself in the wilds until late July - early August and by the end of September it is usually gone.

My process is very simple actually. I harvest a large handful. You can see from this picture that is has wilted a bit. I didn't get to it yesterday as I had hoped.

I cut the leafy tops to include the orange flower and the stems, and put it into my blender or food processer (whichever I happen to have on the counter). I fill the blender to the top with the leaves, flowers, and stems. I do cut the stems up a bit, usually into pieces that are about 1 1/2" long before I add to the blender.
I then add about 10 oz. of water, turn on the blender and let it pulse until I have a green looking pulp. Often you will have to help out the blender by stirring and pushing the herb to the bottom (just be sure you have turned the blender off first).

Once I have this wonderful healing pulp,
I pour it into an ice cube tray, put it in the freezer until it has frozen.
Once the individual cubes have frozen, I then take the jewel weed out of the ice cube tray and put into freezer bags and return to the freezer. Then come March and April when I doing my garden clean up and don't see the small sprig of poison ivy until I've pulled it and handled it, I will have nature's cure in a state that will work on the poison.

I say in a state that will work because the one thing with jewel weed, if you dry it and then try to rehydrate to use in the spring, it just doesn't work as well. Think of it like the aloe plant that you have in your kitchen for when you burn yourself; you need the fresh juice from the aloe plant and you need the fresh juice from the jewel weed. By making a pulp of the fresh plant and freezing it, you are able to maintain the fresh compounds. I'm not a scientist, so I can't explain the exact hows and whys, I just know from experience it works.

Now you have your own year round crop of jewel weed, how do you use it. If I'm home I stop immediately whatever I'm doing and come inside, get a cube of the jewel weed from the freezer, and rub the cube of jewel weed over the area of my body that has been exposed to the oils from the poison ivy plant. This will actually prevent my body from breaking out at all. If I don't catch all the oils, and some of the blisters of the poison do appear on my skin, the pulp in the cube will relief the itching that comes with the poison and help with drying up the blisters faster than any over the counter cream.

One of the salves that I hope to get to next week will be to help with itching, and jewel weed is always an ingredient in that salve as well. So I anticipate that you will see this herb again before the growing season is behind us.

Happy Harvesting!!!