by Liz Koch
Summer is here and all around are signs of abundant life. In back yards, fields and mountains there are wild plants paying homage to the sun. Vibrant and strong these wild plants offer life sustaining energy, medicinal support, and tasty enhancements to our daily fare.
Medicinal plants from many parts of the globe have found their way into Santa Cruz county landscapes. Although the word medicinal may conjure up medicine and illness, many herbs are traditionally used simply to nourish, ward off, and protect. They are best thought of as prevention foods. Our ancestors used these medicinal plants as a primary form of maintaining health. Eating “wild” takes us back to our primal roots and reconnects us to the earth’s essential energy.
In the Secret Teachings of Plants, author Stephen Harrod Buhner writes “for most of our million years on this planet human beings have daily eaten the wild.”
Domesticated store bought foods are raised for other properties such as long distance travel, visual appearance, and shelf life. These “foods” may not offer vigor, nutrients, or even much taste. Much of the flavor and bold character of vegetable plants have been bred out over the centuries. Herbalist believe that because medicinal plants are in a sense less tame and more wild they offer a stronger influence per serving than store bought foods.
Medicinal herbs are best looked at as “special foods” that have a more pronounced influence on our body systems than the normal foods in our diet. When used with balance, conservation, and sensitivity they offer a powerful energetic nutrition.
Fear of mistaken identity, being poisoned or sickened often keeps us from experiencing the wildness of our own back yards. We may have lost touch with our senses so we simply do not know one plant from another. However master gardeners such as local herbalist Darren Huckle, nationally recognized Christopher Hobbs, or author Herbalist Michael Tierra assures us that harvesting herbs from our gardens is not only a great way to increase our connection to nature but that many wild plants are not only very safe but are simply unmistakable.
Santa Cruz County is a great place for taking wild crafting classes and herb walks that help you recognize herbal medicine.
Huckle for example comes to people’s home to help them learn about the wild plants in your yard. He encourages everyone to begin connecting with the plant world by learning about the medicinal plants growing right around us. Doing so he says is a step towards re-establishing a deep relationship between plants and humans.
Stephen Buhner couldn’t agree more. He assures and invites us to Mother Natures table “Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it the more we will awaken.”