Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Making do - making good

Plants don't wait for the herbalist to go to the store, or to have jars and cheesecloth and time. They bloom when they bloom and there isn't any negotiating. So when you're the herbalist, and it's the once-a-year moment when your 'first phone call' plants bloom, you'd better be ready to figure something out.

The St. Johnswort is beautiful this year, I haven't seen even one Japanese Beetle. The plants are lush and vibrant, very healthy with lots and lots of buds and blossoms. I've been collecting them a little each day, since they bloom in succession for a couple weeks, giving the herbalist about a month in all. I put the crock on for about 20 minutes, a few times a day, to keep the oil warm and infusing, and liquid. Since the part of this post that is "making do" is the part where you learn that instead of my regular olive oil infusion, I used Coconut oil. I have a lot of it because I bought it to make soap with. And why not? It's a great oil, super long shelf life and tolerant to temperature changes. I can have it liquidy in the summer and perhaps a little jar of it's semi solid red goodness in the cold months.

I add the new flowers and buds each day as I harvest them.

Some of my herbal oils infuse in cool places, some with wilted flowers, some from dry or dried flowers or leaves, and some from just picked flowers sit in the sun for only 10 days. I all depends on the plant, the oil, the season ...... and using your sense and sensibility to determine what will really work. It's not easy to give general directions on infused oils.
I know that my SJW likes it warm - from hot sand, the sun, a double boiler, or a crock pot. The oils I've made otherwise just do not render the same amount of deep red. I use just picked fresh buds and blossoms, and a few of the leaves that tag along.

I adore this oil. I use it for everything. Yet I hoard and protect it at the same time. It's soothing, anti-inflammatory action makes it wonderful for scathed skin, burns, sensitive facial skin, dry patches, and especially on sore muscles, often soothing me more than Arnica. It's also an excellent ant-viral, making a superb lip balm for those who get cold sores. My son swears by it, using it for truly any affliction he gets with good results every time. It doesn't sting, smell funky, or anything else that might turn off a skeptical, sensitive, child.

St Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) grows along dry, often disturbed areas like old building lots, rocky open fields, behind malls, along highways, etc. Sometimes it is really hard to find a good stand that is far enough away from pollution to safely harvest. Old farmland helps or land that's mowed only twice a year. My favorite spot, The Cedar Grove, is amazing this time of year, with many of my favorite plants all growing together in the meadow... the shocking white Yarrow, Lavender Monardas, St. Johnswort, butterfly weed, and all different kinds of clover and asters.
Even a small harvest of SJW blossoms is worth putting up. Now's the time! (at least here in New England) Find what you can in your cabinet .... be it whiskey, brandy. vinegar, oil, lard.... what have you, and fill 'er up. This plant is easy to extract, I've never had a batch go bad in any menstrum.


Yarrow said...

How wonderful! I have only one lonely plant and I don't think I am going to get any blooms from it this year. Beautiful.

Sarah said...

Fascinating how we are all drawn to this plant and use it in so many different ways. I've written my first SJW article on my blog http://kitchenherbwife.blogspot.com/

Lovely photos. Someone else has mentioned using coconut oil to me, so I may give it a try. Thanks.

The Plant Whisperer said...

Indeed the wonder of such versatile weeds :)beautiful post Sarah.

yarrow - don't forget my big jar of SJW oil if you decide you want to barter for the earth skirt!:)

bright blessigs sisters!