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December 2008

Winter Wildcraft
By The Growing Gardener

The Growing Gardener archive

Just after you've tucked in your garden and hung up your trowel, wildcrafters in your neighborhood (and they are there!) are just beginning to think about winter root and bud harvests and other ways of harvesting the wild. Not just this time of year, but every season of the year, wildcrafters make the most of the earth's bounty.

Mariah Kaye, a fiber artist and wildcrafter, has enjoyed the art of making healing salves using herbs, flowers, and cottonwood buds she harvests from fallen limbs. I spoke with Mariah about wildcrafting, which she succinctly explained, "It's harvesting what's out there, and . . . it's not planned." With wildcrafting, the season is the leader.

After a January winter storm is the perfect time to harvest cottonwood buds. Fallen limbs make the cottonwoods buds accessible for wildcrafters. Mariah goes to a nearby park where she usually has luck finding cottonwood limbs. The sticky resin of the cottonwood bud is what produces the fragrant, sweet, piney smell of her healing salve. The buds soak in olive oil for weeks—producing the healing compound Balm of Gilead.

Another winter wildcrafting activity is harvesting dandelion weeds. It's December, and new dandelions are indeed growing in my lawn and garden. Now, I know a lot of common weeds are edible, but up to this point in my life, I have not tried garden weeds in salads, sandwiches, or teas. But, as The Growing Gardener, I want to share with you my personal experience.

And . . . this led to edible art. Did you know dandelion leaves look like miniature trees, dare I say, Christmas trees! This was fun. Add a little fennel, some dandelion root, and a white plate and you have a small wooded area in snowy mountains. I see a little sun shining there, too. Next, you can eat your art. Is this not the ultimate wildcraft? The older leaves can be steamed to remove the bitter taste and then added to dishes. You can make tea from the roots. Also, dandelions are considered one of the best herbs for gall, spleen, and liver complaints.

artistic arrangement of dandelion leaves

Mariah's final word on dandelions: "In the summer, blow the seeds and horrify your neighbors." Spoken from the heart of a true, nature-loving wildcrafter.



Herbs are special: Dandelions

Wild Forager


The Growing Gardener is Gina Renee Lozier, a Seattle-area resident, a landscape and container garden designer, and an enthusiastic student of horticulture.


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