To help you gather your rosebuds and other delightful plants while they are still in their prime, here is a quick list of five of my favorite herbs to collect and use at this time of year. Take a look around your neighborhood and see if you can spot any of these wild or cultivated beauties:
Red Clover blooms abundantly throughout the summertime. Look for flowers that are vibrantly colored, and skip those that look wilted or tired. To dry, place the blossoms on a window screen so that airflow can reach all sides of the flower; also make sure the flowers do not touch one another. Use dried red clover blossoms in nourishing tea blends; it mixes well with other herbs like nettles, burdock or dandelion.
- Make sure you have positively 100% identified the plant you are collecting. Use regional botanical field guides (see below) or reliable websites to ID the plant. Be familiar with any poisonous look-alike plants. If in doubt, do not collect or use the plant.
- Never collect in protected areas or on private property.
- Do not collect near busy roadsides, or in places where the soil/water quality is in question. Be aware that heavy metals and pollutants can accumulate in the soil. If possible, have a soil test done of the area where you regularly collect.
- Collect your plants on a dry and sunny day. Usually morning is the best time to harvest plants.
- Look for healthy, vibrant looking plants. Keep in mind that for leafy plants, it is generally best to harvest the upper third of the plant. Research the best time of year to harvest the plant material you are interested in (leaf, flower, root, seed).
- Respectfully gather only what you need, and never collect a whole population of plants, even if they are abundant. Leave plenty for the plant to flourish and reproduce itself.
- Process your herbs immediately - whether drying, pressing, tincturing or infusing. Be sure to label your plants with the date they were collected and their origin.
I hope these tips inspire you to do some of your own herb harvesting this season. I’d love to hear what you are collecting - please be in touch! To learn more, consider joining me in one of my upcoming herbal classes. Happy harvesting!
Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Peterson Field Guides) by S. Foster & James A. Duke
Edible Wild Plants (Peterson Field Guides) by Lee Allen Peterson
A City Herbal by Maida Silverman
Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill
Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast by Peter del Tredici