“Nut in Pocket”
By Nance Klehm
originally published in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008)
Out there, out of doors, it’s between leaf and root time. It’s seed time. In autumn, plants put their efforts into reproducing themselves via seeds, both bare and covered with delicious flesh. Right now it’s time to collect these offspring—juicy apples and pears for cider, seeds to grow next year’s harvest with, and nuts and berries to make healing infusions from.
Here are some seeds to collect before winter settles in:
kentucky coffeetree seeds
lamb’s quarters seeds
queen anne’s lace
yellow dock seeds
pears and apples (for cider…)
Each of these seeds has practical medicinal uses, which you can research on your own. But if you want the full-on benefit from the plants you decide to put in your body, you have to allow the plants to help you.
Long infusions, which are like concentrates, are an easy way to allow plants to do their work on you. You don’t need to use bagged herbal tea or other plant materials from a store to make an infusion. Nor do you have to buy it in bulk. Instead, you can forage, gathering plants that grow wild in our cities.
When you collect from a plant, do it on a dry day. Try to find more than a few and collect from them in a way that won’t damage them. Don’t rip or tear; instead, make clean pinches or cuts with a knife, your fingers or some pruning shears. Take only a few leaves/seeds/fruits—no more than 10% of any individual plant—as it is important that the plant you are collecting from is allowed to thrive and regenerate itself, even if it is considered a ‘weed.’ Plants are generous by nature with what they have to offer. When you are done, thank the plant. Maybe give it a drink from your water bottle. Because that plant is going to help set your liver or blood or mental attitude right. And that is pretty generous of it.
HOT & COLD
When you return home, dry the plant material in paper bags. Drying medicinal weeds is all about allowing air to circulate around the leaves and protecting them from light. Paper bags are perfect for this as they will not trap moisture. Don’t put too much material in any single bag—remember, the air has to be allowed to circulate. I like hanging them upside down in small bundles in my dark and dry pantry, but that’s just me.
When you’re ready to make an infusion, grab a healthy (no pun intended) handful of dried herb and put it in a quart glass jar. Glass is a must—it is stable and neutral. Now pour hot water over it all, until full, and screw on the lid. You use a lid so the volatile oils stay in the brew instead of being released into the air. Of course, that aroma can be enjoyable and part of healing, and will have your home or office smelling terrific.
Let it brew for at least 30 minutes to as long as several hours. You will need to do some research here. Some plant materials have chemical compounds and minerals that require a longer steeping time to get them to release into water. Roots and bark are two examples of this, but certain leaves fit this bill too.
Also, some plants require cold water instead of hot water. Seeds and fruits, for example, require cold water. I also usually steep these longer, often setting my jar up the night before, having a nice sleep while my infusion makes itself and then waking the next day to drink it at room temperature or warming it up with a low flame (stay away from that microwave, yuck!) or even drinking it iced.