Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In the Drying Corner...

We have a nice wide windowsill on the south side of our middle room. I dry my plants and roots there unless the weather is hot and dry, in which case they get moved out to the sun table on the porch. Right now, what I've got drying:

Poke Berries

Many foragers and herbalists say not to mess with Mr. Poke unless you have experience. Poke can be poisonous and can and will KILL you if it is misused. On the other hand, I've been reading herbalists who do use Poke cautiously, usually an extract of the root or eating the dried berries, a few a day for a few days. I'm a curious sort and so I gathered a bunch of poke berries when our bushes were bursting with them. To me, a poke bush in full glory looks like...well, like some crazy thing that belongs on another planet in an alternet universe and somehow stumbled through a time/space hole and ended up here. A poke bush is big, bold, bursting with color, a strong magenta-pink-purple and these lucious purple-pink berries. So very beautiful and so potentially deadly. The berry juice can be used as ink--Thomas Jefferson used poke berry ink to write many of his letters, and the poke ink has held up to this day.

I have read that poke root extract or the berries can be used for many different problems, and some studies in Germany are showing the plant may be effective in treating HIV and lymphomas and childhood leukemia. Not to mention aches and pains and illnesses resistant to other, gentler herbal treatments. That's why I decided to dry some berries. Cautiously. Very carefully. One berry at a time. You can read more about poke here, here, here and here.

If you decide to investigate and use poke, please be very careful. I am NOT advising anyone to use poke--it has definitely nasty side effects, it can make you quite sick and it can kill you. I am NOT an herbalist, nor a doctor, nor any kind of expert at anything--I'm just a beginner forager. I am willing to try poke but can only be responsible for myself. So just put in all the usual disclaimer stuff here.


A while ago I made myself a dream pillow. I first read about this years and years ago in a book called Herbs and Things: Jeanne Rose's Herbal (A compendium of practical and exotic herbal lore). This is a really fun book--full of herbal recipes for makeup and cosmetics, herb baths, hair potions and conditioners, herbs for wild dreams, etc. I dried a bunch of mugwort, stuffed it into a little pillow I'd made and sewed it up. Nothing fancy. Wild dreams? Yes, but then dreams usually are. But lots of fun and fascinating dreams followed, rich, lush dreams in full color. If I make an effort to write them down, I'd be able to tell you some of them, but I'm afraid I didn't. Still, I'd recommend this to the curious.
Years ago I made these pillows for friends. One person couldn't stand the smell, but the rest of the people really enjoyed them. I'm drying more mugwort now and will probably make some more pillows for friends--if I can find some of those sweet old lacy handkerchiefs that women used to carry, I'll use those for the pillow material.

Mugwort is a nervine and good for insomnia as well as for dreaming. Or, make an infusion (add one oz dried herb to one pint boiling water and let it steep for a while) and add the infusion to your bath water to relax sore muscles.

Is gathering an herb from a neighbor's herb garden (with permission) "foraging"? Probably not. But I'll "forage" wherever I can find what I need and I have permission. It includes dumpster diving and curb-side "shopping" as well.

The other sundry items are chopped dandelion roots, rosehips and juniper berries. The roots and hips are for teas, and I don't know what all use I'll find for the juniper berries, but they sure are pretty. All of these were free for the finding of them. Ain't it grand?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My wife hates it that I let the poke plants grow. They come up year after year and I don't have the heart to mow them down. I've read not to eat the berries so I've just let the plants grow without trying to use them.

found your post a insightful read.

yours in native living,
Hoosier John