The Earth changes and shifts its tune when Old Man Winter delivers 0-degree weather. Ice crystals open the curtain, the song of the wind sets the stage, and cold rains transition our bare Earth into a new exciting performance. As I walk through the winter forest, I know that behind the frigid facade, Mother Earth is secretly preparing for another spring. Nuts and seeds are bountiful and scattered on the forest floor—there is less distraction from green foliage. And, if you look closely, you'll notice the pure naked beauty shines on. The trees create bark patterns and personalities, and mossy rock lay like sleeping giants. Can we find a harvest in January?
Yes! Winter Harvest is the time of year we can harvest the inner bark and collect seeds and roots from many plants. An occasional bright green will catch your eye. Many wild green plants have the stamina to maintain a living above ground this time of year. Our springs, south-facing slopes, and protected valleys can be prime places to go look for pop-up mushroom harvest and edible wild greens. Pocket ecosystems protect these edible and medicinal jewels of the Earth. The medicinal needs of our ancestors knew no season. Our ecosystem wants to communicate with you!
Winter is a great time to harvest.
Today, we are at Sacred Fire Farms on the Brazil Creek for our search. It is a perfect place for a Winter harvest. First on our journey is the old root cellar used long ago to store root crops and home-canned goods. This was the old way to store food for use later. Built into the side of the hill, it rarely freezes inside because the Earth maintains a moderate temperature. The owners discovered nearly 1,000 jars of canned food still in the cellar. They were able to reuse many of the antique jars to hold dried herbs, seeds, and nuts.
...old root cellar used long ago to store root crops and home-canned goods.
...a well-house was used to keep the main source of drinking water clean. It also creates a natural refrigerator...
A covered freshwater spring runs through the land and meets an old grove of Walnut trees. In the old days, a well-house was used to keep the main source of drinking water clean. It also creates a natural refrigerator to store milk, cheeses, and other valuable foods for the farm. For us, it also keeps a constant water temperature where vibrant Watercress is still found and harvested today.
This plant can also be cooked with butter and garlic.
Watercress (Nasturium offcinale) can be found in fresh spring water. The peppery flavor adds zest to winter salads like others. This plant can also be cooked with butter and garlic. Wild, fresh greens have a plethora of available vitamins and nutrients that our ancestors needed for vitality during the winter months. Watercress is a nutrient-rich stimulant and blood purifier. It also has been used to prevent many diseases and even cancer. This wild green is high in oxalic acid. Some individuals have sensitivities to this. Always use caution when trying something new.
Watercress (Nasturium offcinale) can be found in fresh spring water.
The Wild Corydalis... Caution should always be used when harvesting plants for food and medicine.
The Wild Corydalis, also commonly called turkey corn because of the showy flowers in early March ( Corydalis Canadensis) is not for hobby herbalists! This plant contains a powerful alkaloid called cordial within its roots. Corydalis has been used as an alternative cleanse. This herb also has calming actions on the central nervous system. Studies have shown this little plant has promise for aiding tremors, paralysis, and other nerve disorders. Caution should always be used when harvesting plants for food and medicine.
The Wild Onion... The green grass-like spikes can be seen even in the snow.
The Wild Onion (Allium canadense) can easily be spotted this time of year. The green grass-like spikes can be seen even in the snow. Make sure the green has a true onion smell. The wild onion can be used like any other onion. It is especially good in cream of potato soup. The wild onion can be harvested and dried to use as a seasoning flavoring. The roots can be dug and eaten fresh or pickled for a delicate wild winter feature. As we connect to our local plants, we create unique meals that support our immune system. Get your kids outside to harvest this bountiful edible! Wild onions are anti-bacterial and draw toxins out of the respiratory system.
Eat chickweed in a raw salad, add to eggs, or stir-fries. A wonderful wild pesto can also be made.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is my all-time favorite wild edible. Harvest with scissors and fill a basket. This wild green can tolerate very cold temps and will go dormant during the hot summer months. Eat chickweed in a raw salad, add to eggs, or stir-fries. A wonderful wild pesto can also be made. Chickweed is cooling to the overheated system and is useful anytime there is excess heat in the body. Get out there and discover chickweed!
This may be one of the most widely used herbs of the Ozark region.
Mullein ( Verbascum thapsus) is a traditional respiratory herb used by many Ozark old-timers and their children. This herb has been used for teas and steams. The whole plant has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for skin lesions, backaches, and much more. This may be one of the most widely used herbs of the Ozark region. The furry leaves can be spotted far away.
A sweet sap hides within the pod that tastes similar to sorghum molasses.
Honey Locust Pods ( Gleditsia triacanthus) can be chopped up and added to tea. A sweet sap hides within the pod that tastes similar to sorghum molasses. The pods contain a prized yeast traditionally used in homemade brewing recipes. Goats and pigs also love the sweet treat! Make sure you have the right plant!
Many barks, roots, and stems can be used to make baskets! All of these plants have traditionally been used for fiber arts and medicine by Indigenous wisdom keepers.
Slippery Elm ( Ulmus ) has a long tradition of being used for survival food...
Slippery Elm ( Ulmus ) has a long tradition of being used for survival food and medicine. I call it " Ozark Aloe". The white inner bark can be applied to skin burns, taken internally for digestive irritations, and dry coughs. The inner bark can be made into a survival gruel by simmering in a pot for 20 minute. Slippery elm contains as many nutrients as a bowl of oatmeal. Slippery elm soothes all the mucus membranes and is absolutely on my harvest list! The inner bark is very strong and has traditionally been used for the creations of fine basketry.
The Black River Willow... The bark can be dried and rehydrated for tea or weavings.
The Black River Willow (Salix nigra) has been used as a pain remedy, anti-inflammatory, and all around first aid herb. This tree has come to my personal rescue many times while swimming at the creek with the kids. A quick putice can be made by chewing up the inner bark or leaves and applied directly to an open wound or bug bite. Willow is also astringent and antiseptic. The bark can carefully be harvested for medicine and basket weaving. The bark can be dried and rehydrated for tea or weavings. Just sitting by the willow brings calmness to the nervous system.
The leaves are highly nutritious and make a tissue tone supportive tea.
Black Raspberry(Rubus occidentalis) shows her vibrancy in The Winter months with a long enticing burgundy-purple shoot reaching out. This bramble produces the best tasting berry in The World! The sweet tart taste is unmatched by any other. The leaves are highly nutritious and make a tissue tone supportive tea. These long canes can be used for basket making. The root is a strong astringent that can be used in serious digestive issues. Visit this plant in all seasons for new surprises and wonders of nature.
Nuts can be toasted, roasted, and eaten.
Black Walnuts ( Juglans nigra)can be harvested on the forest floor this Winter. Nuts can be toasted, roasted, and eaten. Black walnuts are high in protein and magnesium. The nut is a super food for humans and forest animals. The whole tree and green Walnut hull are used for medicine and natural fiber dyeing. The tree is anti-parasitic and acts as a natural iodine. The green hull is a fluid mover for stuck conditions.
As I was walking around with the photographer, we found many edible and medicinal treasures. The photographer reminded me of a curious wild squirrel with a camera.
...a generational family farm located in Bourbon, Missouri.
The Meramec Valley Herb Guild meets at Sacred Fire farms on the first Sunday at 1:00 pm every month. The meetings cover specific herbal topics with a presenter, followed by a round table discussion. This is a free event to all who are interested in Ozark herbalism.
Sacred Fire Farms is a generational family farm located in Bourbon, Missouri. Dedicated to enriching and growing knowledge of beneficial botanicals, the farm, and its owners offer classes, lodging, a reconstructed century-old barn for weddings and corporate events, and their own events just for fun, like a quarterly barn dance, herb guild gatherings, craft fairs and more! There is also an Air B and B in the loft at the barn. Pretty cool place for a getaway. You can check them out at sacredfireliving.com
Owners of Sacred Fire Farms, Nancy and Mike Herold.
I will be speaking on Winter Harvest in The Ozarks with a round table discussion on the topic to follow. A free community seed swap will also take place during this event. Free herbal tea samples will be provided. Bring seed to share and a winter harvest story. February 4 @ 1:00 pm, Sacred Fire Farms
Get Out There! And try something new.
Colleen Smith - 573 Magazine House Herbalist
Pics by t. smugala
Consult a medical doctor before using any herb as medicine.
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