Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The joys of harvest

After complaining about the lack of time to wildcraft in my last posting, the plants have had the last laugh. Everywhere I look something is either blooming or making its green profusion known for gathering before the flowers bloom.

Harvest began in earnest on 17 June when I wandered around the Priory field picking elderflowers to make into elderflower cordial for the workshop at the farm on June 19th. The recipe can be found here.

Cotswold nettles gathered during my visit on 15 May for tincture and vinegar while Chris was flying kites at the Bidford on Avon Steam Faire, were ready to cut again to make a cold water maceration for workshop participants to drink. I suspect I covered the nettles and a few sprigs of red clover with a little too much water as the resulting infusion was lighter than last year although it did deepen in colour as I reached the bottom of the bowl.

During the workshop we gathered catmint, white horehound, white hyssop, lemon balm and sage which are drying laid out on the sofa of the Sanctuary summerhouse. After everyone left, I picked some beautiful yarrow which was flowering next to the greenhouse.

The plants outside the glass were bright pink while those inside were the usual white of the wild plant. I have no idea what makes the flower change colour. I know the plants are both wild, because they transported themselves to that spot and my parents have never grown cultivars in the garden. I can only think it is something to do with nutrients in the soil. The flowers of farm marjoram is deep pink, almost crimson, while the majoram in my garden on acid, clay soil is always very pale pink.

On the Sunday afternoon, before I left for home, my father helped me pick elderflowers and red clover from the field by the bungalow and I plucked a small handful of dog rose petals – just to feel that I hadn't totally missed out on their beauty. Their scent was glorious!

Once home, the elderflowers were transformed into an elderflower water and a new citrus tincture with the remainder of the harvest were put to dry. The dogrose petals made a new elixir and roses from the garden were added to the garden rose elixir, which has a definite rose scented “kick”.

I used the red clover blossoms which my parents had so carefully picked to make an elixir and tincture and put the whole aerial parts on the table in my garden summerhouse to dry for tea.

The star of all this profusion has to be St John's wort. The first two flowers appeared on midsummer's day and I've picked a bowlful of flowers most days since then. Two full 2lb jars of oil are infusing on the kitchen window sill, two similar jars of tincture sit in the larder - the first one has already turned an amazing shade of red! - and a small jar of honey is infusing next to the oil. I can't remember harevsting so much St John's wort in so little time any other year!

Sean Donohoe inspired me in his article on restoration following heat stroke to make some Lemon balm elixir last weekend . It was one of our hottest days and I spent most of the time sitting in the shade under the apple tree. I've already gathered enough for two jars of tincture and Sunday's harvest was enough for both the elixir and a further jar of tincture.

I can thoroughly recommend a soothing cup of yarrow, plantain, lemon juice and St John's wort honey tea. I made one for myself using leaves growing in between our patio flagstones following a visit to the dentist for a large filling last Friday. As I get older, I find such visits more and more traumatising and normally I am laid out for the rest of the night once the anaesthetic wears off. Maybe it was the skill of my new dentist, but I had absolutely no pain or suffering at all! I think my herbal tea helped too!

So, what are the rest of you out there in the herbal world doing with your herbs at the moment? Are the plants flowering earlier or later than usual? Are they more or less prolific or do you feel the season is moving as it should?


linda said...

I managed to harvest some elderflower just before they started to form berries. I chose to try to infuse these in honey topped with alcohol. I'm in the deep country at the moment and going into town for supplies is time consuming so I used what I had in the pantry.

We have raspberry and I'll be drying some leaves, comfrey to dry as well (for external use but much will be turned into fertilizer) and a blackcap berry which is an old fashioned thorny blackberry for tincture. I just have to check to make sure that its still safe to use the roots and leaves (and run into town to buy vinegar:)

Everything else is coming along very slowly in comparison to the city garden that I am more familiar with but I am enjoying this slower pace.

ICQB said...

Here in Ohio, USA my calendula is in full swing, which surprised me. I usually have to wait until almost August for it to begin blooming.

Other things seem to be blooming just a tad earlier, too, like the elders and the yarrow.

My husband was on a business trip in Italy. He took a picture of the countryside in which was a blooming elder bush. It was literally weeks before ours bloomed here.

tansy said...

i posted my soap recipe in comments of my post for you. :)

Lucille said...

Interesting post. I'm new-ish to this blog, but have like what I've read!