It’s that time of year again! Fall is in full swing and it is time to harvest what has flourished and begin putting the gardens to bed.
This year I have been lucky enough to have a bigger garden and several raised beds, so I have quite a stock of culinary and medicinal herbs and plants. That means time in the kitchen preparing and preserving them, so nothing goes to waste.
So far, I’ve turned the cabbages into sauerkraut, the apples into Scrumpy (hard cider) and Apple Cider Vinegar, and I’m even trying my hand at a batch of Lemon Balm Mead. The abundance of vegetables will not stay fresh for long so I am busily making things like Verderette, and recipes that can be stored and preserved; herbed oils, dried blends for cooking, pickled vegetables, and some frozen options for those herbs that just aren’t quite as tasty dried.
I’ll turn the medicinal herbs into teas, tinctures, salves, and balms. Some will get dried and made into dream pillows and sachets. And others will be dried and stored in jars, ready to be called into action when needed.
When everything has been harvested, I typically end up with a pile of stems, which brings me to the point of this article.
What to do with the stems???
Longer and more pliant stems can be banded together to make wreaths or door swaths that look and smell really lovely. They can also be gathered into bundles, wrapped with ribbon or twine, and placed over doorways to let the plant essence linger in your home and brighten the winter days. Then come spring, these little bundles can be used to kindle celebratory bonfires.
Another great use, one with deep traditional roots, is to wrap them into small bundles and use them as smudge sticks. Smudging or the burning of plant material to cleanse a space, person, hearth, or home, is an age-old practice found in many, many traditional cultures.
Unfortunately, modern or new age practices have assumed that the only herb useful for cleansing a space is white sage. You can find sage bundles for sale in just about every place that sells ‘spirituality’. This has led to mass overproduction and over-harvesting, and decimation of native species in their own habitat.
The truth is that every plant has spirit properties and traditional cultures worldwide have relied on plant spirits native to their own landscape to provide them assistance through the practice of smudging or burning.
If you take the time to get to know the plants in your landscape throughout the growing season, then come harvest time, you will know which ones will bundle nicely together to make your own smudging sticks.
Sure, you can look up the energetic or spirit properties of plants from a magical book or an internet search, but really the best way is to take the time to let them tell you themselves what their essence will provide.