At the Zoom meeting Tuesday, I shared a few plants that are ready to gather in the fall. Here’s the list I shared with a few photos. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list – there are many more plants you can harvest throughout the fall and even the winter!
Sumac (Rhus spp.)
One of the herbal students asked about the difference between sumac and poison sumac. For some reason, I was thinking of hemlock (don’t ask me why) when I answered that it was a smaller plant.
Here’s the right answer: Fortunately, poison sumac primarily grows in the east so we don’t come in contact with it here in Idaho. It’s distantly related to poison ivy and poison oak, but actually contains a more potent chemical that can cause extreme contact dermatitis if you come in contact with it. However, it’s easily distinguishable from the true sumacs by its cream colored drupes; contrast that with the bright red fuzzy fruit clusters that stand straight up on the sumacs.
You can easily make a sumac “lemonade” by putting the berries in a jug or jar, pouring hot water over them, and allowing them to steep overnight. The next morning, strain the berries and sweeten as you want (honey, maple syrup, herbal syrup, simple syrup, etc). You can also dry the berries and grind them to add to meat rubs and spice mixes.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry, Kinnikinnick)
Uva ursi’s antiseptic and diuretic qualities make it great for UTIs. Taken as an infusion works best. This is not for long term use, but rather meant for acute situations. Do not take for longer than a week or so.
Greens that we would typically find in the spring are also re-emerging this fall as the weather gets cooler and more moist, so you have a second chance to get those again:
- Viola spp. – demulcent; great for soothing the throat; lymphatic stagnation; skin irritations; mucosal membranes
- dandelion greens – we have several recipes on our blog and on our YouTube channel using dandelion greens
- cleavers – great lymph mover
Remember to pick an area that’s not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. both of these roots are best taken in the fall after the leaves have died back (marking your spot is helpful with dandelion, otherwise it could be difficult to find them after the aerial parts are gone!) Remember when you pull the root, it’s not necessarily killing the dandelion, it can still grow back from any small root left in the ground.
Burdock is a biennial, so this means that the first year it focuses on growing its long taproot so it only forms large, low-growing leaves. The fall of the first year is the time to get the roots. The second year it will form a tall stalk and flowers and burrs will form in order to reproduce. By this time, the root tends to be very woody and difficult to work with.
- rosehips – dried and powdered, infused honey, decoction, jam. Just remember that you either need to cut them in half and remove the tiny hairs (this is the only way to use them to make jam) OR make sure you use a coffee filter to strain the decoction well in order to catch any tiny hairs that have escaped from the inside. High in vitamin C and antioxidants. All parts of the rose are great for the emotional heart.
- hawthorn berries – Great for the heart. Infused in brandy makes a delicious heart supportive nightcap
- elderberry – Make sure you’re picking ripe berries. Pull them off the stems and you can either dry them for later use or infuse the fresh berries in alcohol, vinegar, sugar or honey. If you use honey, you’ll need to make it into an elixir by adding alcohol (you can use a tincture of any herb including elderberry) in order to keep it shelf stable, or allow it to ferment and you’re on your way to making a mead or wine.
- mountain ash – bitter, great for sore throat – especially when infused in honey (you could combine this with other herbs that would be helpful for sore throat like viola for its demulcent properties), high in flavonoids, immunostimulant
Don’t miss the zoom meeting next month that is open to everyone, even if you aren’t enrolled in a course. It’s the second Tuesday of every month at 11 am PDT, October it will be on the 13th. You can access the zoom meeting by going to the “Monthly Zoom Meeting” course.
If you are a Fundamentals student, we meet every Tuesday at 11 am PDT.