Spring native plants - harvest and use year 2010-1
There a number of native plants that are very important to health, nutrition and ecosystem support. This is the time of year to start looking for basket-making plants.
Nutritional - Medicinal
There were a number of plants that were known by First-peoples of Cascadia that helped humans survive starvation and nutritional imbalance. Know by Europeans as "Spring tonic" plants, these plants with their new shoots are full of nutrients that are helpful to our well being. For instance- stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) when picked young, can be steamed and eaten in February and March. This plant has been known to alleviate muscle pain, depression and tiredness. Because of the unusually warm weather this winter in Cascadia, I have already begun to harvest young Stinging Nettle. Stinging nettle is often found in semi-wet well drained areas. The plant is often found near Horse Tail (Equisetum arvense).
It is believed that Stinging Nettle was brought to Cascadia by Europeans and adopted by First-peoples. It is a plant found worldwide. However, it was quickly incorporated as a survival plant by First Peoples and others who moved here to live. It is a key ingredient in the Spring Potherb. This is a soup where early plants are steamed and cooked into a broth and drunk to get one's body ready for spring and summer. It wakes up the body, mind and spirit.
Recipe for the Spring Potherb
Dandelion leaf and root
Stinging Nettle is a versatile plant. The plant is not only eaten, but as the plant matures, the fibers of the plant were used for fiber. For shoes, hats, fishing line, woven into twine and rope. The use of Nettle fiber worldwide is the similar to the use of Hemp or Flax. Used to weave fabric of all kinds, it is has also been used to press into paper. The nettle fiber is usually pressed with other paper making plants as it does not possess the gluey substance needed to allow the paper fabric to hold together.
The Sting of the nettle is said to be a cure for Arthritis and other diseases of muscles, joints, and some organ tissues.
The antidote for being stung by this plant is the juice found inside the stem. So if you get stung and need relief, open up the long stem of the plant use the juice found inside to put on the welts. Also the juice of the Dock plant can be used as an antidote.
NEVER COLLECT THESE PLANTS ALONG POLLUTED WATERWAYS, ROADS OR INDUSTRIAL AREAS. This plant, as well as all plants, is adapted to uptake dangerous heavy metals (bio-remedial).
COLLECTING SPRING PLANTS FOR BASKETRY AND TWINING AND LIFE TRELLIS'
This is also the time of year I look for young, straight Willow and other plants that I can use in making baskets and weavings.
I pick them now and store them in buckets of water until I need them. I have also made live Willow trellis' to hold up garden plants like peas and pole beans.
These plants when stored in a bucket of water will grow roots. Once the roots look strong and healthy, I plant them in my garden and allow them to grow into a Trellis or fence. Willow live fences can be braided and woven into beautiful designs. The fence can be used year after year.
See you in the Deep Woods
Next time: More spring harvest - Horsetail