Merry meet all,
How to gather herbs
Wildcrafting is the gathering of herbs in their natural environment. When you are searching in the wild for chicory, chickweed, mints, or nettle, please respect the earth. Collect as much of a plant or herb as you need at the time. Never deplete an entire patch of wild raspberry or nettle. Let the patch or tree continue to grow in its wild state. Leave an offering for the plant and the goddess. Nature maintains a natural balance.
A difference can be found in the taste of store bought herbs and your own garden grown herbs. Herbs should be gathered when they flower. When gathering leaves, cut above the node on the stem. Pick off the faded leaves and store in a dry place. When gathering flowers, cut the flowers just before they flower. Seeds should be gathered when they turn a brown color. Collect roots in the dormant season.
Be sure that you are selecting the correct herbs when you are gathering wild herbs. Bring a friend and a guidebook with you. It might be easy to mistake poison ivy for another plant.
How to dry herbs
Fresh herbs should be picked before the heat of the midday sun or the volatile oils will evaporate. The drying of the leaves of herbs intensifies the flavor. Small leaves dry faster than large leaves. As a precaution, do not take more than two cups of any one medicinal herb in twenty-four hours. Some herbs are stronger than others. Moderation with herbs is strongly advised.
First, the basics of herbs: harvesting, drying and storing of herbs. Autumn Equinox is the ideal time to gather and harvest herbs. You can use scissors or a boline. Try corresponding the color of the plants and the earth element with your tool for cutting. The color of the scissors could be green. A boline has a white handle and can be used to harvest herbs.
Next, wash the herbs in a nearby lake or in a clean kitchen sink. Once clean, bind the herbs with embroidery floss or a rubber band. Tie a loop around the ends and hang the herbs from string in your kitchen to dry. Allow the herbs to dry for several days. When the herbs are crisp to the touch, they are ready.
For instance, lemon balm has small leaves on its stems. When it is dry to the touch and easily crumbles, it can be ground in a mortar and pestle, and stored in a dry canning jar. While the leaves are drying, the tiny black seeds fall out. Store bundled lemon balm herbs in a paper bag to collect the seeds.
If you are freezing the herbs, wash and dry the herbs in cold water first. Press the leaves into plastic bags. Put the leaves in single layers in the bags. Remove the hard stems and do not thaw the herbs before you use them.
If you prefer to use jars, label the jar and write on the date on the jar. Ensure the jar is not damp or wet as this can cause your herbs to mold. Store somewhere dark and cool in a cupboard or pantry in labeled brown paper bags with a date written on them. The herbs will be properly prepared and easily accessible for your cooking or magical purposes.
Herbs have a rich history. The ancient Mayans decorated graves of their loved ones with herbs such as marigolds to aid them on their journey in the afterlife. The folklore of herbs is fascinating. However, I urge those who want to use herbs to use caution. The power of herbs should not be underestimated.
Enjoy the bounty of your gathered herbs!!