In the House - August

Plant Magic: A Year of Green Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans - Sandra Kynes 2017

In the House

Harvesting and Drying Plants

Harvest leaves and flowers after the morning dew has evaporated. Chant as you harvest and prepare them for drying to set your intention for their magical use. Herbs grown for their leaves are usually harvested throughout the season and before the plants flower. This is when leaves are at their height of potency for taste, medicinal purposes, and magical power. Flowers are at their peak when they first open or just before they fully open.

Flowers can be harvested by pinching them off by hand or by cutting them with scissors. Handle them gently to avoid bruising. Use scissors to harvest stems and leaves. Leaves should be cut off rather than pulled as this may damage the plant. Brush or shake off any dirt or bugs. If you are going to hang plants for drying, cut the entire stem, and then remove the flowers and/or leaves after the plant dries

Air-drying herbs, by hanging them in bunches or laying them on screens, is a simple and traditional way to preserve plants. This method works best in a darkened location with low humidity, good airflow, and a steady, warm temperature. You may find the right conditions in a corner of a room, a porch, shed, attic, or even a large closet where linens or clothes can be scented as the herbs dry.

Gather herbs early in the day and do not rinse them unless they are muddy. If you do rinse them, lay them out on paper towels and let them dry before gathering into bunches. It is important to bundle the same type of plant together, rather than mixing them. Different types of plants dry at different rates because the moisture content varies.

Bundle up to ten stems together with rubber bands, twist ties, or yarn. Attach several bunches upside down to a wire coat hanger with enough space between them so air can circulate freely. A wooden laundry rack can be set up wherever the conditions are right and can hold a number of herb-ladened coat hangers. Make sure the bunches are not touching each other and that they are not right up against a wall or other structure.

For screen drying herbs, a clean window screen works well. As an alternative, a piece of cheesecloth, muslin, or brown paper with small holes poked through it can be attached to an old picture frame to make a drying screen. Lay out the herbs in a single layer. The screens can be set on laundry racks, which will enable good air circulation.

Check your screens and bundles every day. Plants will feel slightly brittle when they are completely dry. Leaves and flowers should be stripped from the stems for storage. Keep them in airtight containers away from direct light.

Seeds should be left to ripen on the plant before they are harvested. Seeds usually start out green and then turn a different color when ripe. Check them every day because the seeds will drop to the ground. You will need a cloth or paper bag to harvest them. When they appear to be ripe, gently bend the stalk until the seed head is over a cloth placed on the ground or inside a bag. Shake the plant so the seeds fall. Alternatively, once the seed head is in a bag, cut the stalk off the plant, hang it somewhere dry, and just let the seeds fall off. If you are using a cloth, draw it up over the seed head and secure it to the stem before cutting it. Store the seeds in airtight containers away from direct light.

77 Payack, A Million Words and Counting, 176.

78 Ferguson, The Magickal Year, 158.

79 Frederic Rosengarten, Jr., The Book of Edible Nuts (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004), 95.

80 Rosemary Gladstar, Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide (North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2012), 53.

81 Ann Bonar, Herbs: A Complete Guide to the Cultivation and Use of Wild and Domesticated Herbs (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1985), 50.

82 Carr-Gomm and Carr-Gomm, The Druid Plant Oracle, 20.

83 Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, The Country Diary of Garden Lore (London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 1987), 50.

84 Tenenbaum, Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, 188.

85 David W. Sifton, ed., The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines and Healing Therapies (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999), 259.

86 Rosemary Gladstar and Pamela Hirsch, eds., Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2000), 60.

87 Coombes, Dictionary of Plant Names, 30.

88 Ibid., 121.