Summer: Wildcrafting Herbs

As this Summertime season draws to a close, my heart is full at the abundance we have gathered into our home and hearts. I’ve been studying and using herbs for nearly three years now, but have been largely limited to simply reading and using herbal shop supplies, due to pregnancy, exhausted early motherhood, and the busyness of moving overseas to a new country. This is the first Summer that I’ve been quietly in one place, and able to watch the season slowly unfold around me with appreciation and wonder. 

Picking Red Clovers together

I’ve formed so many new herbal allies and friends this Summer, out in the wild most of all, where my heart belongs. The Creator God has so blessed us as to live on the side of a small mountain range and dense forest of rich, varied plant life. I’ve had endless opportunity to practice my plant identification skills, finding totally new-to-me plants of many kinds. Most of which I had only known in their dried, packaged form bought in stores or online. Which don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful to have the availability and option there. But there’s just a simple, pure magic of being out in nature, exploring, learning, gathering, and carrying home all the richness of God’s Creation.

Margot beside the Chicory patch
Cichorium intybus

The quiet presence of a plant, catching your eye, you bend closer, admiring its beauty, noticing each distinguishing feature, you positively know it, gather a small amount, and offer up a prayer of thanksgiving to God. It’s moments like these that are a balm to my soul, moments I live for. A new green friend made, a “face” you can now recognize, a face to pick out of that green crowd of plants that we’re coming to know for its individuals. A blank wall of unfamiliarity no more, but each distinguishable little green beings, with their own personalities and gifts to offer up. This is what I want to share with my children. This mindset, these gifts, this wisdom, which I am slowly uncovering for myself and then bestowing to them in turn. This is why I take my children along with me every single time.

Chicory

This summer we’ve had an absolutely abundant harvest of Elderberries, our freezer being packed full! All those Elder trees we were so excited to find earlier this spring and from which we gathered Elderflowers, we slowly, appreciatively watched as berries formed, then darkened and grew round, full of sweet, potent plant medicine- wild medicine in one of its most ancient forms. I did a write up on properly identifying and harvesting Elderberries a few weeks ago, if you’re curious to learn for yourself.

European Black Elder – Sambucus nigra

We went out many, many times, gathering from five different Elder trees growing wild nearby, baskets in hand, carried home once more heavy with the weight of their fruit. There were such special moments together as a family, gathering berries, my husband Taylor reaching the highest branches for us, and Margot organizing the clusters of Elderberries I would hand to her, Cassian contentedly overseeing us all from his perch on my back in the baby carrier.

Margot closely examining the Elderberries with her play spyglass

A few times though, it was just Margot and I who headed out. I so enjoyed talking with her about the Elder trees before us, and the way God had blessed us with them for using for our good health and enjoyment. She loved picking alongside me. My heart is so full just looking back even now on these precious memories made together.

Also, this summer we took a few trips to a nearby countryside, where the forest and lake-shores meet, forming a verdant landscape of herbs and wild plants scattered alongside paths and all throughout unassuming meadows. The deep vibrancy and lushness was so exhilarating, and it was there that we found some of the very best herbs to wildcraft this summer.

We’ve gathered baskets full of wildly growing Red Clover, Yarrow, Plantain, Lambsquarter, St. John’s Wort, Goldenrod, Elderberries, and Chicory, in addition to the ones we’ve grown ourselves in our little balcony garden: Rosemary, Thyme, Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Basil, Parsley, & Chives. My small herbal apothecary at home is the fullest its ever been, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to God. This has been a season of gathering indeed, and my mind is brimming with creative projects for this autumn and winter to come. Teas, oils, balms, salves, tinctures, and more to be made!

St. John’s Wort

One of the most special moments this summer was in finding St. John’s Wort. I’ve been desperately wanting to become acquainted with this plant, it seeming to literally call to me, constantly on my mind, and me intuiting that it will be a great herbal ally in my journey as an Herbalist… I have been searching for him all summer, not wanting to just buy him packaged up in an herb shop, but out in the wild, in his original state. I have been praying and looking on my wildcrafting ventures, but never, never found anything. Then suddenly one day, in a field of wildflowers, I spotted a small, golden glowing cluster of blossoms. My heart skipped a beat. I eagerly rushed over and stroked his leaves and admired his bright yellow blossoms, whispering a prayer of thanks to our Creator for such a lovely, deeply appreciated plant of multifaceted healing to be presented to me. I knelt in the grass and plucked just a few of his delicate leaves and flowers, and brought them home with me. So thankful and happy to have finally made the acquaintance of St. John’s Wort. What a great friendship that is about to unfold between us two… I’ve had him tincturing for a few weeks now, nearly ready to partake in the golden, uplifting goodness of St. John’s Wort, truly the quintessence of summertime.

Wild Blackberries

One distinctly summertime wild treat we eagerly looked for and almost effortlessly found was blackberries! They were at nearly every turn, alongside quiet parks, or bushes to be found scattered throughout the woods. We’d pick them, Margot most delighted of all for her “black-bayrees!”, and we would often eat them right then and there of course. In fact, it was a rarity if they even made it home with us at all before being totally consumed while outdoors. We do love our berries over here.

Wild food brought home… the best kind!

Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina)

More often than not though, I will take the little ones out into the wild or to local parks and just enjoy the beauty and diversity of the plant life around us, not even considering wildcrafting anything to bring home with us. But just to be near the plants, admiring them, or taking the opportunity for learning. It’s been such a joy just to know and recognize various old herbal friends, or to learn and become acquainted with new ones this summer. Using those moments to put our plant identification skills to practice, I love to share with Margot what some of the plants can be used for, in simple terms for her just turning 3 year old self. And maybe we’ll still pinch a leaf here and there and have a taste before we leave too!

Margot gathering Chicory blossoms

The Creator God has given us so many leafy, green blessings this Summer. And I deeply appreciate each one of them. The past few years have been a bit rough, moving constantly and twice pregnant and just containing the rawness of early motherhood… It leaves you in such a state of raggedness that can hardly be expressed, but only commiserated with by those who have experienced it also. This Summer though, being out with a near three year old who is finally getting used to life and living, and watching her run wild and free, and then stop and contemplate the mysteries of the natural world around her… and then happily wildcrafting herbs beside her, or keeping an eye on her as she darts off again… Well they’ve been deep moments 0f healing for me.

This is part of a Little Woodlanders series! Also check out…


P.S.
If you enjoyed this post and are interested in learning more about herbs, head to my Herbalism page for more ways to study herbs and their properties, actions, preparations, and traditional use in day-to-day living!

 

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Author: helen.wildrose

Christian • Herbalist • Writer • INFJ

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