Herbs for Gathering in July

Howdy Plant Lovers!

One of the most common questions that I get about herbs has to do with timing for gathering. A couple of times, I received specific requests for regular blog posts with my suggestions for what to gather NOW.

So, When is the best time to gather?

Before I get to my suggestions on what can be gathered this month, let’s talk a bit about the principles of gathering, so that y’all will be able to extrapolate to plants that I don’t mention (remember, i’m working on reducing the number of herbs in my apothecary and increasing the quantities of those herbs that I do use).

So, here’s my basic run down…

Follow the energy within the plant.  When it’s in the part of the plant that you’d like to gather, that’s the time!

Now let’s apply this…

The general growing cycle of plants looks like this… Leaves 1st, Flowers 2nd, then the flowers are pollinated and the go to Seed 3rd.  At this point, some plants die back completely.  This marks the end of the cycle for Annuals, but for biennials and perennials the energy simply drops into the Roots 4th.

Following the energy of a plant, we can see that the energy moves up and out until it produces seeds and then returns down and in to the roots.

So, in the ideal world, gather the leaves before flowers and roots after seeds.  In the parts of the world that actually get frost (ie. not for the lower mainland), most herbalists gather roots after the 1st frost. I usually just wait until all/most of the leaves have faded, browned and withered.

And obviously, the only time to gather flowers or seeds is when they’re present in the plant.

It’s important to know the plants you’re gathering for food or medicine.   Some plants put out their flowers first, before producing any foliage.  Colt’s foot, Tussilago farfara, and it’s Western cousins, Petesites spp., are an example of this.  They produce dandelion-esque flowers very early in the spring.  You won’t find a leaf for weeks, until the flower stalk is almost entirely gone.

I make a really delicious Infused Honey with these flowers.  It provides GREAT relief for dry, hacking coughs (both to lungs and the soar throat that follows).

I hope that’s helpful.  Plants don’t actually need to be too complicated ;)

What to gather NOW?

1.  Lemonbalm, Mellisa officinalis

You’ll have go to the garden to find this delightfully refreshing herb.  It doesn’t exactly grow wild, but it does easily escape.  Community gardens around the city have lots growing outside of personal plots.  Because of this, it’s not hard to get permission to gather or “weed” it out.

It makes a really relaxing and uplifting tea.  My love making it as a cold infused Sun Tea.

2. Calendula, Calendula officinale

July is Calendula Month! This beautiful flower LOVES the Sunshine!  It’s started to flower in my gardens and will likely continue for the next 6ish weeks.

The best way to gather a good supply is to tend a patch.  You’ll be able to pop-off the tops on a weekly basis for the next few weeks.

Calendula is great topically and internally.  It’s most known for it’s soothing, anti-inflammatory properties and is often used in “natural” creams and salves.  It has many more uses, check out the Calendula post for more info.

3. California Poppy, Eschschalzia californica

Wow!  This plant blows my mind!  It’s a fantastic nervine (relaxant).  The first time that I took the tincture I was on a road trip to California.  I was feeling really antsy and kinda irritable being stuck in such close quarters for so many days (traveling from NY state).  Anyway, it hit me instantly.  I sat back and melted into my seat.  It really took the edge off and I think that my travel companions enjoyed me taking it almost as much as I did ;)

I tincture the whole plant, so this plant requires us to exercise our ethical wildcrafting capacities.  You’ll need to “kill” the plant and it’s a lot more sensitive than the 2 previously mentioned herbs.

To find it, look in hot places.  Good luck with that Vancouverites!  Here’s a hint, look for open and hot micro-climates cuz we clearly aren’t having a super hot season.

Alright plant lovers, that’s it for me today.  Happy gathering!

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