Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Busy with herbs

I've been busy gathering herbs.

I found an elderberry bush from which I've gathered some blossoms. The bush grows near the old farmhouse that's close by. I'm sure that elderberry was there on purpose for use in the household way back when, but now you've got to wade through waist-high goldenrod, ironweed, and assorted other things to get to the bushes. And you have to battle the wild roses that grow alongside to get to the blossoms - all the time trying not to rub against the poison ivy.

My daughter laughed at me because after getting through all of that and wrestling with the bush to reach the high-up blossoms, my head was covered with the little, star-like flowers which had shaken loose and showered down on me. The Elder Mother, whose permission you are supposed to ask before taking the blossoms, was playing games with me. I hadn't asked for her permission : ) So instead, finally remembering my manners, I thanked her as I left.

I also found several spots where yarrow is growing wild - the wild edges of the park next door, on a hill by a roadside, etc. It's in bloom right now so I've gathered some of that, too.

I added lavender to my garden this year and I've been gathering blooms off of that.

A few things that I'm excited about that I have in my garden this year are: holy basil, evening primrose, elecampane, and, of course, calendula.

The scent of holy basil is amazing. I think it's my new favorite! It's spicy in a clove sort of way. I'll add it to teas to stave off oncoming illness (colds/flu) or to help when a person already has something nasty. I'll also mix it with lemon balm for a relaxing tea.

I've purchased several new jars in which to keep my dried herbs.

A few things I've made recently with fresh herbs:

Elder blossom infused cider vinegar

Plantain infused oil

Yarrow infused oil

Plantain glycerite

It's important to always check on the safety of the herbs you want to use. I have several books which told me that elder leaves could be infused in oil to be used on the skin and wounds, etc. I was happily making some of this oil when I brought up elderberry on one of the medical sites which summarize uses, clinical studies, and cautions of herbs and their remedies. Turns out the leaves, bark, root, and unripe berries of the elder should not be used. They contain a cyanide-like compound which can be poisonous. So out went the oil being infused with elder leaves.

If I feel industrious I'll try to add a few pictures to this post later.


adrienne said...

Permission from the Elder Mother - that reminds me of the game Mother, May I?...

Your garden must smell great! I've never heard of holy basil.

ICQB said...

Hi adrienne!

Ha - next time I'll ask, "Mother may I take some elder blossoms?"

I read about it being polite to ask permission in a little herbal that recounts some Appalachian lore. It's fun to read, but I didn't take that part seriously and came away with a head full of blossoms and a very small case of poison ivy.