{ The blessings of a family harvest }

{ The blessings of a family harvest }

Recently a kind neighbour invited us to come look on his property for flowers we may have a use for.

We took a family walk into this meadow close to our house, belonging to our generous neighbor, and, what do you know! It was full of wild yarrow, St. John’s wort and mullein, vibrant with health! 

Our neighbour confirmed that he had never sprayed this property with pesticides so a couple of days ago we went for a morning family harvest, for yarrow and St. John’s wort!

What a blessing to be invited to a pristine meadow laden with flowers, so close to us and nested deep in the valley, away from any streets and passing vehicles. These flowers were so clean and healthy, ideal to make oils and tinctures with. 

We set to work. My eldest with his knife, and my youngest with his scissors, they started harvesting going from plant to plant with shouts of joy whenever they found a big bunch! We first harvested yarrow as there was abundant at the entrance to the meadow, and as we advanced onwards, we begun harvesting St. John’s wort flowers. My husband placed my youngest on his shoulders and the little one cried “There!” pointing at the distance. “St. John’s wort!” Indeed, we could see some, and we made our way forward to continue the harvest. But a little after that, both my boys and my husband started calling out, “Come see! We found the mother load!” 

I headed there and I saw a large patch all yellow with St. John’s wort! We harvested for some minutes and just having picked a very small portion of what was around us, we already had more than enough for the day’s harvest!

Coming back home, I decided part of the harvest would go into oil making and part I would leave to dry for preparing tea for the winter. Yarrow makes a tea traditionally used to treat high fever as it promotes perspiration, and St. John’s wort dried flowers can be used for a host of conditions: As an addition to baths to help combat a viral infarction, as tea for kidney and lung ailments, to boost mood and “ease a heavy heart”. 

Luckily my husband and my eldest, both harvesting using their knives so they cut the plant lower on the stem. This enabled me to make bunches and hang them from the rack I have in my workshop. This rack I had initially installed for curing soap and drying handmade paper, but seeing the bunches of yarrow and St. John’s wort hanging from it now, it seems to me it was always meant for this use! And it makes my work space so much more beautiful! In 2-3 weeks these flowers will be ready to process for tea and save in large jars.

Now, for the St. John’s wort oil, I decided to try a new, more scientific approach for making it, as up until now I had been using the folk method, one that doesn’t rely on specific measurements. I was eager to try the method described in a book that I have started relying more and more recently for information regarding the medicinal use of plants, and this is “Medical Herbalism” by David Hoffman. In this book Hoffman provides a recipe for making the much valued oil and his approach adds two main elements to the mix: Measurement of plant material and oil, as it gives a specific ratio of plant weight to oil volume to follow, and the action of crushing the flowering tops before you add them to the jar to make the oil. After adding the oil to the crushed flowering tops he instructs to leave the jar open for 3-5 days, and then seal it. For the subsequent 3-6 weeks the sealed jar should be placed on a sunny spot and shaken daily until it acquires its characteristic red color. Next comes straining and lastly separating the oil from the water. 

I really can’t wait to see the results of this method! I have seen the folk method do wonders with this divine flower and I can only assume that a scientific approach like this one would increase the potency of the oil.

The oil will take roughly a month to be ready and the flowering season in this parts doesn’t last very long, so I plan on making the month of July the month where most of my St. John’s wort harvests will take place. If I can harvest daily, always being careful not to overharvest a certain area, I will have enough oil for my family’s needs next year as well as for my herbal products. 

Right now my St. John’s wort is running low, and it will be at least a month until I have more up on the store so if you are not making your own, or if you need some right now, here is where you can get some.

Happy St. John’s wort harvesting season!

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