I can’t believe it’s been since the summer solstice that I have sat down to share with you. It’s been an incredibly busy summer full of wonderful things, and yet, with all of that goodness comes the overwhelm at feeling busy with so many tasks each day and yet not feeling a sense of growth around any of it. I like to think of each big step as comprised of hundreds of tiny actions, each seeming disconnected and insignificant but over time, building up brick by brick a new structure, a new paradigm, from which we can begin to build again and again.
But sometimes that doesn’t happen, or it doesn’t feel that way and we are just scrubbing toilets, doing dishes, folding laundry, reading books to your kids, and so much unpaid and unappreciated labor.
In the field of my own life, I have found this to be a seasonal pattern. Summertime is hot and we want to be outside, but doing so takes a toll. Add in the financial stress of vacation time and extra childcare, plus the societal expectation that we are just naturally toned, tanned and carefree in the summertime, and transition easily back to “real life” in the Fall. Or maybe you work in an office, or in a cubicle, or in a store, so all that doesn’t really apply to you. Summer is just like all the other days, except you are spending 8 or more hours in super cold air conditioning. Our bodies are amazing creations, and works so hard and well at maintaining homeostasis that we don’t always notice subtle imbalances. For most people, Fall is a time to rest more, rebuild with nutritive herbs and nutrient dense foods, nourish the immune system, and calm our minds while we continue the tasks of harvesting and processing the last vestiges of the summer garden, and the abundance of right now. It’s a time for work, establishing routines and finishing tasks, but with a calm and focused heart.
<Shameless plug here: If the seasonal shift feels especially tough for you, it might be a good time to consult with an herbalist! We can help support you both physically and mentally through the change of seasons and addressing some of the hard to deal with symptoms with grace.>
Here are some of the foods that require our attention to partake in, and some herbs to support that work:
Hackberry (Celtis spp.)
Hackberry is a most useful staple food, if you can collect enough to store. They are fiddly to harvest and time must be invested but if you are able to collect enough to make hackberry milk, it is well worth your time. Hackberry milk is bright orange, slightly sweet and makes a perfectly fine substitute for almond or soy milks. It can be used for most any recipe that calls for milk. It works just fine in morning coffee! I like to think of a hackberry as having a date m&m coating, and it kind of does. Crunchy and sweet shell around a hard seed interior.
Learn how to make the milk and also more about the tree here: https://sacredstrawberry.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/hackberry-love-hackberry-milk-tutorial/https://sacredstrawberry.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/hackberry-love-hackberry-milk-tutorial/
American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
This time of year, the sweetest fruit available are the small but delicious American Persimmons. Many of the people who don’t like them have had an experience with an unripe fruit, which is extremely astringent and will suck every last bit of moisture from your mouth. It’s super unpleasant. I have heard and read it stated many times that you must wait until the first frost for persimmons to ripen. I don’t know about further north, but around here that is patently untrue. They thankfully ripen over time, so there isn’t a huge glut of sticky fruit to process at one time, but we are in the thick of the season right now! We’ve already made a few pints of pulp and given away around 10 pounds of fruit. I won’t be making more infused liqueur this year, as I made an insane amount last year, but I would like to have more pints of the pulp to freeze and can. I’d also like to try drying them whole. It is said that the Houma tribe (in what is now south Louisiana) would spend the entire month of persimmon season gorging on and eating basically nothing but the fruits. I can see why, and it would probably have left them in good standing for the winter.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower vine keeps on thriving well into October, flowering even. In some gardens, the Gulf fritillary butterfly larvae have laid waste to entire vines- their larvae eat passionflower exclusively. I’ve included passionflower because it demands my attention right now. The vine is still beautiful and growing while flowering, and so if I want to store any more for tea over the next year, I must pick up the pace and harvest more for drying.
Passionflower is a classic sedative nervine herb, especially helpful for insomnia characterized by circular thoughts. I don’t find it to be especially sedating, and I have no problem including it in my daily herbal infusion periodically.
I think of this plant as less of a food, and more of a medicine so my gathering is generally focused on fresh tincture making, fresh glycerite and dried for tea.
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Goldenrod is blooming literally right now! We have tended to a patch here on this property, trying to find a balance between chopping back it’s invasive ways and leaving it to grow, both for the insects which ADORE it (including bees! yay!) and for us! I always have some tincture on hand for conditions involving leaky or imbalanced mucosa (sounds lovely!) like post nasal drip, or UTI’s. I have found it to be incredibly effective for a variety of issues, and so it is an apothecary staple. I also love to make infused honey, either for mixing with tincture to make a tastier elixir, or for enjoying myself in hot tea, on pancakes or drizzled on fruit+yogurt over the winter. This year, I have also made a few gallons of Goldenrod Wine, and it is fermenting well! Fingers crossed it ages nicely. If so, I plan on making at least 10 gallons next year haha!
Other wild foods that are either up right now or almost ready are: nuts- acorns, hickories of all sorts, and pecans; and roots of various types- sassafras, smilax and dandelion are some of my favorites to dig. We grew burdock this year, so I am excited about those roots. I’m also excited about the Fall mushroom season this year! I am praying for an abundant year of oysters and lion’s mane particularly, though if a maitake or a chicken of the woods crosses my path I wouldn’t turn them down!
Hope you are enjoying these cool and fall like mornings! Here’s to rain and an abundant harvest for you and yours. xxx