“Looking deeply into your tea, you see that you are drinking fragrant plants that are a gift from Mother Earth.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I quietly sip my tea, my hand wrapped around my favorite mug, savoring the warmth on a chilly late Winter. My thoughts entertaining the coming Spring, I look out the bay window, towards a scrappy leafless thorny vine nestled between two Elder trees. I smile and look down to my tea and take a sip. My tea of red raspberry leaves was harvested from that same vine nestled between the Elder trees. Three years ago, Lisa gave a small cutting from her garden of red raspberry to me. I planted her next to my beloved Elder and watched her grow in her wisdom. I usually wait a few years after planting before I harvest.
Photo from the Hill's garden, Summer 2022
Last Summer I harvested a few leaves. I placed them in a paper sack for drying and let them sit on top of my pantry cupboard. I would love to hang my harvested herbs above my kitchen island, however I have a feline friend named Luna who would somehow find a way to either swat it down or dig her claws in and hang from them. She loves the plants too, especially fresh catnip from the mint garden.
Growing up on a homestead, harvesting from our gardens, and knowing where my food came from, I never realized how sacred and special it was. I have many precious memories of my petite Grandma Grace, putting on her large floppy garden hat and picking up her large woven basket. I knew we were going on an adventure. Each garden had it’s own season for harvesting. For example, in the early to mid-Spring we would head across the road to the rhubarb and asparagus garden to harvest or head to the woods to forage morel mushrooms.
In current times, what I practice has been named Bioregional Herbalism. Bioregional Herbalism, in my own words, is planting and growing your own plant allies. I believe it gives a person a deeper connection to the earth and the plant allies they consume. It’s an ancient practice that sadly, in our modern times, has many disconnected from the Earth and the plants. I am really happy to see it being honored again.
How can you start the practice of Bioregional Herbalism?
If you are not able to have a garden, start with one plant in a pot. My daughter’s apartment had a sliding glass door and small patio where she kept her plant friends in pots. She also had a portable greenhouse that was about the size of a small stand. Buying from a local grower may be another option.
If you would like to learn more about Bioregional Herbalism (aka growing your own) there are many websites and books to learn from.
One of my favorite Bioregional Herbalists is Linda Convoy, of Moon Wise Herbs. She offers many classes and retreats including the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, which I have attended.
If you live in the Prairie Star area, our friends at Curious Roots, is an option to get local fresh and dried herbs.
Growing your own herbs is very empowering and satisfying. As I sip my tea and gaze at the plant which it came from, I am so gracious. Not only do I feel a deep connection to the plant and Mother Earth, but I feel like I am honoring my Grandma and my Grandmas before her. They passed this knowledge and practice down to me so I can enjoy this tea, not bought from a store from a different region.
Violets harvested from my backyard mid Spring. The bowl was my Grandma Grace's butter dish.
Yarrow, growing out of a pot at Prairie Star Botanicals
"If you want an apothecary that works, you must draw from the plants that grow where you live. The medicines are there for your body. Choose the plants that thrive year after year, the most endurance, have story, choose that story." Advice from Clarissa Pinkola Estes's Aunt Edna in the book The Power of the Crone