working with fresh herbs

I’m super excited to be a part of a new CSH (community-supported herbalism)! It’s like a CSA, but for fresh herbs! There are about 12 of us, and local herbalists Gradey Proctor and his trusty partner Sue Ellen are heading it up. About half of the herbs are grown in Gradey’s backyard and the other half at a nearby farm. Another small portion wildcrafted and diligently processed, with Sue Ellen’s super eco-conscientious techniques!

The CSH runs monthly May through November, and the idea is that by the end of the season, we’ll have enough herbs for a well-stocked medicinary! We had our first gathering last month, and I took home SO many fresh herbs! I had to convince a couple of friends to get in on the share with me, I definitely wasn’t prepared to process it all.

fresh herbs CSH

I planted two bunches of California poppy in the ground in our little garden plot, barren up until now, and tinctured the rest – just chopped up the whole plant, root and all, and stuck it in a 190 proof Everclear. We learned that poppy is best worked fresh, rather than dried. Apparently, it doesn’t like to be transplanted – but it’s supposed to do well in scrappy soil, which is what we have, so we’ll see how it grows!

 

I’ve hung 4 bunches of lemon balm upside down (top herb in previous picture) in the dark bedroom to dry, along with some sage. Lemon balm grows well in Portland. My first winter here, it was the only thing that survived the snow and kept growing the first chance that it got. It’s kind of a social plant, and likes to grow alongside trails and roads, where people pass. I’m tincturing another batch of lemon balm and most of the fluffy mullein (bottom herb in previous picture). I had so much mullein that I boiled it to make tea…tasted like hot green vegetable water…and later sauteed it for dinner. That didn’t work out too well because it has millions of tiny hairs that get stuck in your throat when you try to eat it. Accck! Funny that it’s a lung tonic! Mullein is one of those herbs that you want to cultivate, rather than harvest. It’s so good at growing in marginal soil that it tends to take up toxins and other pollutants from the ground. So whenever you see fluffy mullein leaves, look around you and see what you notice!

Over the weekend, I was thinking that I want to move away from the tinctures a bit, because they are the most costly part of this process at $70/gallon for Everclear. They can also get quite pricey for patients, many of whom cannot or do not want alcohol. So when better than now to learn to make non-alcoholic medicines!

As if the universe read my thoughts, we had an herbalist/nutritionist come speak to us at Grand Rounds about different ways to make herbal medicines! I got inspired by her shrub recipe, and decided to make my own – a mint, ginger and blueberry shrub!!

mint ginger blueberry shrub

If you’re interested in learning more about shrubs, here is a very detailed blog about it from Deer Nation Herbs, including instructions on how to make one.

Thanks for reading about my new herbal adventure! Never stop exploring!

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