Today I took my scythe and cleared a path through the long grass across to the other side of the main valley here. It’s an area of the land I have not visited for a while, on the north side of our little seasonal stream. There is a beautiful bit of old cork oak forest there, and some chestnuts, an old walnut and a few old fruit trees along the waterline. At the edge of the forest along the stream banks I was greeted by a carpet of red clover buzzing with bees, and a rich array of wildflowers still in bloom. Everything seems to be flowering a bit later this year due to heavy rains in May.
I wandered into the shade of the the forest edges and began collecting wild oregano which is now in flower (Origanum Vulgare). At first I see a just few of them, but soon my “oregano eyes” are fully operational and I notice it everywhere, its flowering tops waving at me from amidst the long grass, the the brambles, and the bracken. Collecting wild oregano is a delicious activity. I am drawn deeper into the dappled shade of the forest edges, and sunny clearings, listening to the birds, noticing all the different plants, and as my arms fill with oregano stalks, I inhale the wonderful aroma of this plant. I feel its powerful healing qualities nourishing me from this contact.
I leave the forest with a big bunch, grateful.
Foraging for wild plants brings me into a state of natural abundance, and deep connection with the environment around me. I feel in communication with these plants, and will often receive messages or intuitions about using a particular plant.
The oregano will be dried and used to flavour food, make medicinal infusions, and macerated oil.
I am excited to see how many new herbs I spot with each year I spend here. By not having animals grazing, and by selectively clearing the land by hand, the biodiversity is increasing each year. There is a pharmacy growing in these hills, an abundance of medicinal and aromatic herbs.
One day we plan to buy an alambique and start making hydrolats and essential oils from the plants.
Here are some of the ones I have identified and begun to use:
We have loads of this. Round here it is a pioneer plant, growing extensively on degraded land or after fires. An amazing aroma exudes from its sticky leaves, that is made in to a resin used in the perfume industry (labdanum). It is also highly medicinal and quite magical. We collect the leaves and flowers and make tea from them. Last year I did a one day course in steam distillation of plants to make hydrolate. We made cistus water, which has a wonderful smell, and can also be used internally or externally for healing, I enjoyed anointing my face with it every morning.
A sticky cistus leaf can also be used as a plaster (band-aid) on small cuts and grazes.
There is quite a lot of this around in flower at the moment, and when I have a moment I collect the flowers to make make a herbal oil. I use our own olive oil to cover the flowers in a jar and leave in the sun to infuse. This one in the picture is right outside my yurt….
In the spring the hills turn purple with this aromatic wild lavender. We also have another variety with pale greenish flowers that is apparently more rare – Lavandula Viridis
Helichrysum / Helichrysum italicum
Since we cleared a big area of Cistus up on the hill, I have noticed a lot more wild plants that have been hiding amongst it – the cistus acts as a nurse plant – providing shelter and shade for other plants to grow. One I am enjoying at the moment is Helichrysum, with its bright yellow bobbly flowers. It has an interesting smell and I am trying making it into a tea. It is another very healing plant and makes a sought after essential oil.
Earlier in the year we have loads of Malva Sylvestris growing into big bushes, with its pale purple stripy flowers appearing in the spring. Its one of the main wild leaves I pick for salads, and the flowers too….
More recently I notice we have a delicate looking relative – with pale pink flowers and smaller leaves, flowering now in the early summer. It looks like Musk Mallow.
We have quite a few hawthorn trees in the forest. Its another magical plant rich in folklore, and good heart medicine. In the spring you can eat the young leaves, and in the late autumn the red berries appear. I like to eat them fresh, even though the flavour is quite mild, and there is a big seed inside. Last year I made hawthorn vinegar by soaking the berries in Apple Cider Vinegar, and a Hawthorn tincture.
Other abundant medicinal and aromatic plants on the land are wild mint, wild chamomile, myrtle, horehound, olive leaf, red clover…..
There are plenty of other wild and aromatic herbs and shrubs here that I have yet to get to know and many I have yet to identify. I have also planted aromatic shrubs around the garden – varieties of Rosemary, Sage, Artemesias, Lemon Verbena, Melissa, Geranium, Zatar, Jasmine – all great for the bees, and for our own enjoyment.