Thoughts on Spring Foraging and Wildcrafting
Spring is here, and the plants are pushing their sleepy heads toward the returning sun. The first plants to make an appearance are deep lush greens that nourish and cleanse the body after a winter of hearty meals. Miner's lettuce, chickweed, nettles, and sour grass are vibrant, chlorophyll and mineral-rich edible greens that are often the first to pop up after winter. They help stimulate sluggish digestion and fill the body with the energy of spring. If you are new to wild foods and want to start eating them, go easy at first. Wild foods are wild, and they are not the same as their domestic garden-grown counterparts. See how your body responds and take it from there.
Foraging is similar to an easter egg hunt, with an equal amount of childlike enthusiasm upon discovering any mushroom or plant, not just the edible or medicinal ones. A sense of openness and adventure must be maintained; the earth is on its own schedule and does not offer its bounty simply because we desire it. Many days we may return with no harvest, but the time spent in nature is medicine itself!
On the occasions I do return with a bountiful harvest, I am filled with such a sense of bliss and gratitude. Sticky sweet fingers drenched in the juice of wild berries and my senses saturated from the nibbling, tasting, sniffing, and touching as I wander the places I am most at ease. I am continually humbled by the abundance and generosity of the natural world.
Plants As Teachers
"Our indigenous herbalists say to pay attention when plants come to you; they're bringing you something you need to learn."
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
This is such a powerful statement. If you pay attention, you may recognize that the plants around you change, with certain years being filled with different dominant species. Take time to notice; this is the world communicating. Each year I see a change in which plants are abundant. It directly correlates to what is occurring in our community at that time. Some years -like last year, there were huge stands of California everlasting during quarantine, a phenomenal lung, and respiratory herb. I watched other years as the roadsides became blanketed in evening primrose, an herb for self-love and acceptance, healing of old wounds. It is still early, but this year I see huge lush patches of nettles - a restorative plant filled with minerals that nourish our depleted adrenals and help build blood.
The Spiritual Side of Wildcrafting
Wildcrafting, for me, is more about connection than anything else, connection with the places I watch and the stands I tend. Harvesting in an area that I have gratefully called home for all of my life has allowed me to deeply root and connect to the mountains filled with fir and cedar, foothills covered in aromatic sage, the deserts brilliant with the shocking red blooms of ocotillo and bright yellow-flowered chaparral. Familiarity with the cycles of the seasons, moons, and plants offers a depth of appreciation for the uniqueness of each place I visit.
I am so grateful for these places, the spots where time doesn't matter. Sitting on a granite slab under an ancient oak becomes the only priority. These moments are so healing and necessary on a deep, primal level. The chances to reconnect to my roots, my beginnings, and to ultimately, my end. These are the places where my creativity flows, the ideas for new crafts to connect folks with these sacred plants and spaces.
For all of you who support what I do, I thank you. I encourage you to find your own sacred spaces and sacred plants to connect with. It is remarkable what can be heard in moments of silence with an open heart.
DIY Herbal Hair Rinse Recipe
Want to get started with your own foraged product? Herbal infused vinegar rinses help remove build-up, promote healthy hair growth and make the hair super shiny and soft! They are a super easy DIY project and can be customized in so many ways! Right now, with the abundance of wild spring greens, it's the perfect time to try your hand at foraging and crafting!
Nettle and Rosemary Healthy Hair and Scalp Rinse
Gather your fresh nettles. Nettles are naturalized and considered invasive in some areas of the US. They usually grow in dense stands, preferring moist, nitrogen-rich soil.
Tips for identifying and harvesting nettles:
- Nettles grow 2 to 5 feet tall and have opposite leaves.
- The leaves are coarsely toothed, pointed on the ends, and can be several inches long.
- Smaller, younger leaves are more heart-shaped.
- True to its name, stinging nettle imparts a painful sting through tiny hairs on the underside of its leaves and on its stems.
- Stinging nettle is dioecious, which means plants can have either male or female flowers.
- The tiny flowers are arranged in inflorescences that hang off the stems like catkins.
- Use gloves and scissors to harvest the young tops; if you do get stung, the stinging will subside rather quickly.
For more visual learners, check out this quick video on Identifying and harvesting nettles.
Rosemary is an easy culinary herb to source or grow. It thrives in dry, warm, Mediterranean climates. If you live in the southwest and don't grow your own rosemary, ask a neighbor. It is often used as a landscape plant.
Alternatively fresh rosemary can be purchased at many grocery stores in the produce section.
How to make the Herbal Vinegar Infusion
- Add a handful of fresh nettles and a handful of fresh rosemary to a quart-sized jar.
- Cover the plant material completely with Apple Cider Vinegar.
- Let the jar sit for 2-3 weeks, shaking it daily.
- Strain the mixture to remove the plant material.
- Store it in a glass airtight bottle.
How to Make the Vinegar Hair Rinse
When you are ready to make your hair rinse, combine 1-2 tbsp of the vinegar mix with 1c. of water.
How to Use an Herbal Hair Rinse
- After shampooing, pour the diluted rinse all over the scalp and down the ends of the hair.
- If you have long hair, you may need to use more.
- You can leave the vinegar rinse in or wash it out with cool water - totally up to you.
- Your hair will smell of vinegar immediately after your shower, but the smell will dissipate once your hair dries - I promise!
Other Herbs you can use:
- Chamomile: will lighten and brighten blonde hair
- Horsetail: full of silica for healthy hair and scalp
- Calendula: soothing to itchy, dry scalp
- Sage: smells wonderful and may darken the hair
- Peppermint: cooling and invigorating