Foraging for Yarrow & Harvest Book Review
Books in this house, like so much in our life, are things of pure practicality.
Farming manuals, field guides, herbal medicine references they’re all useful and wonderful in their own way but so often they just aren’t that inspiring. When the opportunity came up to review Harvest by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis I couldn’t pass it up. Unlike my typical non-fiction books Harvest is pure whismy.
Harvest is a book of “unexpected projects using 47 extraordinary garden plants.” Its pages are filled with plant growing information, food and drink recipes, dyes, wreaths, herbal remedies, and other wildcrafts. It’s organized by season so at least for three seasons you can browse projects you don’t have to wait months for.
Homesteaders and backyard gardeners may find they already grow or know how to find a few of the plants but there’s also a few I hadn’t even heard of! It might be a great way to expand your horizons. Also while Harvest isn’t written for a particular zone it seems to include plants from all zones so there’s something for everyone. Here in West Virginia we can grow the vast majority of the plants listed.
Reading Harvest reminds me of why I wanted to live this life. To experience the wonder of the natural world and to craft beautiful things. The day it arrived I spent an hour or so pouring over its pages and all those stunning photographs before decided I just had to do something with plants right now.
While Harvest is full of easy, no-nonense projects there’s very little really growing in February in West Virginia when it first arrived. One project however that caught my eye was the yarrow tincture. I knew with a little searching I could find some yarrow near our home.
Foraging for Yarrow
Yarrow can really be found anytime of year provided you live in an area without tons of snow. There are cultivated varieties but wild yarrow can be found growing in fields and forest edges in much of the United States, Asia, and Europe.
Wild Yarrow or Achillea millefolium actually has better medicinal properties than its more colorful cultivated relatives which are often grown for cut flowers. It’s best known for its ability to staunch bleeding, earning many related common names like nosebleed plant, soldier’s woundwort, staunchwort, knight’s milfoil, and sanguinary.
It’s formal names actually comes from this trait too. It was once called herbal militaris for its use on the battle field before recieving its present name Achillea millefolium. It’s said that Achilles himself used the plant to prevent his warriors from bleeding to death.
The best way to use yarrow to stop bleeding is by using dried, powdered yarrow leaves which can be rubbed on a small cut or even packed in a large wound in a real emergency. Though yarrow leaves may be found year round it’s best to wait until summer if possible. Harvesting too many leaves could kill the plant so even during the height of summer I never harvest more than a third of the leaves from each individual.
As a tincture or tea, yarrow is probably most used to treat fevers, coughs, colds, and flus. It’s naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, astringent, and analgesic. Taken internally it has been shown to lower blood pressure.Yarrow is also used in the treatment of heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. Total multipurpose plant!
Finding and indentifying yarrow is easiest during the middle of summer when the tall flower stalks stand out in fields. The flowers are actually made up of tons of tiny flowers that form a flat corymb. Wild yarrow’s flowers are typically white or slightly pinkish. Cultivated varieties have flowers in a variety of colors. Depending on where you live they may bloom anytime from April to Spetember and typically bloom for several months.
The leaves which can be found year round are delicate and featherlike. Some people say they resemeble a small fern. Larger ones grow from the base while small ones grow from the flower’s stem.
When looking at the photos note that the flowers and leaves are different from both Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot) and Poison Hemlock. Once you’ve seen them it’s obvious they’re very different but I like to be extra cautious. It may be helpful to carry a wildflower field.
February yarrow leaves on our property.
On my walk I vistited a patch of Yarrow that grows beneath a tall pine on the wood’s edge but didn’t harvest any. I still have dried yarrow hanging in the kitchen from last year’s harvest and will wait for the plants’ summer growth to harvest for tincture.
Despite having to wait I’m still in love with Harvest. It’s has a lot of plants I wouldn’t have thought to grow and all the projects are vegan or easy to make vegan. For example it includes a tutorial for edible flower pressed cheese. There’s many recipes for (or store bought versions) of nut cheeses that would work excellently.
I’m also excited to add some new unique plants and seeds to my shopping list!
If you’re interested in Harvest you can find it here.
Note: though I recieved Harvest for review I am not compensated to give a good review and all opinions are my own. I only reccomend books and products I like and think other folks will enjoy.
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