Thursday, June 11, 2009

Foraging & Infusing with Herbs

Now that it's June, the plants are bursting out all over. All this fragrant foliage and flowers makes it much easier to notice and identify plants around town.

For example, I always thought that there were just random ornamentals planted at the base of this statue on Mt. Royal. Turns out, someone has planted an entire herb garden there!

It looks very wild and untended, and is just beautiful. It was nice to look around at all the great varieties to get out of my boring basil-sage-mint box.

The plants were already flowering heavily and are really bushy, so I thought it would be fine for me to get some clippings.

Check out the bounty! The oregano and rosemary smell divine, and I think the pale green stuff is some kind of mint, but I'm not positive. There is a little bit of sage, but most of the leaves were gigantic. I'll probably go back to collect a bunch for burning or other shamanic type uses. You'll forgive me, I guess hanging up all sorts of aromatic herbs and mixing them into various brews has got me feeling a little magical!

Tea with the mint was pretty good, and the oregano and rosemary are hanging up in my sunny window to dry.

Can't wait to toss them into a bottle of olive oil and into a bottle of vinegar to infuse. In addition to flavored oils and vinegars, I'm also hoping to make a sugar syrup with some bee balm. And maybe even some rosemary flavored vodka or something!

The herbal infusions will make really great gifts, and are also perfect to trade for other cool items like sourdough starter or canning jars or something.

There were a bunch of other plants that I am relatively unfamiliar with. One of them is yarrow (pictured left). Such an amazing sounding plant! Not that I totally subscribe to herbs as a definite cure-all, but I do believe that they can be used in mild ways as general health aids.

Yarrow has the typical properties of many herbal medicines, and was historically used to help stop bleeding. It also contains salicylic acid, which is a component of aspirin.

Starlings use it to help line their nests; it's supposed to prevent parasites, and can be chopped up and infused into 100 proof alcohol to make a mosquito repellant. It's even an ingredient in many European beers (according to ).

There were three plants that I wasn't sure about, and I'm excited to find out more. Any identification help would be much appreciated! Here's the link:

Can't wait to start drying and making infusions with these herbs. Please let me know if you are interested in trading for them! Can't believe that it's all totally free & foraged. Oh, the bounty of the city...

UPDATE: Around 3:30, I took a quick break from hours of making photocopies at the office. It's nice to take a little walk in the late afternoon for a pick-me-up. On my way, I snapped off a little piece of the yarrow flowers with a bit of stem mixed in, and chewed it as I walked. Had a very plant-y, flower-y taste, as opposed to the strong aromatics of a mint, oregano, or basil.

Am definitely noticing some slight effects, but they are kind of hard to describe. (As always, I am afraid I am creating some kind of 'placebo effect' in my mind.) However, I do notice that I feel that general "heightened sensation" sense that comes with any drink of alcohol, caffeine, or other intoxicating drug. I got that same feeling of increased blood flow to my cheeks and arms. Perhaps the effect is similar to taking an aspirin? Coffee has been making me feel vaguely out of sorts by the end of the day, but I do notice that I feel much less of an edge right now. There was also some definite movement in my sinuses; I've had a dry cough and some stuffiness, and I actually felt some clearing happening, and no coughing at all. Just thought you all would be interested in a little observational research. I'm curious to hear about your own experiences.


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