This time of year those of us who grow or collect wild plants know that the rate of harvest begins to rapidly increase. Since our theme is that of thanks giving, we should take some time to discuss the proper methods of gathering a plant. One of the advantages to growing your own herbs is that you are able to imbue the plant with your intent through out its growing life. These plants become your friends as you look after them from week seedlings to their aggressive bid for space at the height of their strength. When you harvest them, it should be done with honor and respect.
There are a few things to consider when harvesting herbs. First you should know the proper time to harvest, when the plant is ready or the fruit or seed is ripe. You may also want to consider the moon phase and the moon sign when choosing your harvesting days. These can all be found in the Farmer's Almanac or in several of the magical almanacs available at your local bookstore. They should be picked after the dew has dried in the morning or before the dew sets. This will help to prevent mold growing on the plants as they dry. Know whether you are collecting a perennial, which will need its roots in tact and a few leaves left to help it to survive to the next year. If you are harvesting roots you will want to leave some behind to try to revive itself for more plants the following year. If it is an annual, you can pull the whole plant, leaving more room in your garden for the late growers.
If you are harvesting wild plants it is important to keep the following in mind:
- harvest at least 100 ft away from the roadside if it is regularly used
- be familiar with endangered plants in your area, they can not be legally harvested
- be familiar with any look-a-likes to avoid inadvertent poisoning
- only harvest what you will use
- avoid stripping the area of plants, leave 25% behind
- avoid stripping the plant when possible, leave some leaves on to help it to survive
With all harvesting, and always with magickal use plants, you would do well to follow a few practices. The energies of the plant world are known as Devas and each plant and their surrounding areas will have these special energies. Some believe that Devas help to maintain the energy and the health of the environment and of the species it's self. When you harvest a magickal plant you should take some time to ground and center yourself and place your hand upon the plant. Ask it's permission to be harvested and tell it what you intend to use it for. Wait until it feels right before harvesting. If you don't get a feeling of rightness, you should not gather the plant. It may very well be a delicate ecosystem, or not really what you need. When you harvest you should also leave an offering as an exchange of energies and an thanksgiving to the plant and the surrounding Devas. The traditional European offerings were a coin, Meade, blood water or a piece of cloth. Since we live in the United States, we should honor those traditional offerings of the Native people of this area. With that in mind, the appropriate offerings would be cornmeal, tobacco