As I write this, there is a chill in the air and the leaves are falling from the trees. As the season starts to wind down, it can start to get harder to get kids outside and exploring herbs. Though most plants are dying back for the winter, there is plenty to do!
Paint with Pokeberries. In the herbal world, Poke is a low dose botanical, not one to mess around with internally. But externally, the berries can be a lot of fun! Mash them up, strain out the seeds (which are the toxic part of the berry) and go to town with it. Use them to dye your hair magenta, paint your body or use as ink for writing notes and painting pictures. The dye is not color fast, it will wash out with the slightest bit of water so it’s a fun temporary way to play. Traditionally, Appalachian herbalists have used Poke berries to make Pink Water, a remedy for flushing out the body after a drawn out illness.
Dye with Walnut hulls. Walnut hulls make a gorgeous color fast dye that ranges from army green to golden bronze. They are one of the easiest plants to dye with. Simply chop up those green hulls (wear gloves or you’ll see just how easy of a dye it is), fill a half gallon or gallon jar with them then fill the jar with water. Cover and let that sit out for several days then strain off the liquid, compost the hulls and return the liquid to the jar. This time, add play silks, handkerchiefs, cotton or wool socks or other natural fiber and completely immerse it in the dye bath. Cover and let it sit in the sun for a few days up to a week. Rinse a portion and see if it’s as dark as you want it. When you’ve reached the desired color, rinse in cold water then hang on the line to dry. The dye water can also be used as an ink, put it in a stock pot and cook the liquid down until it is thick. Store in a jar. Medicinally, Black Walnut is used for a variety of issues including ringworm, hypothyroidism and worms. Learn more about Black Walnut.
Harvest Cherry bark and twigs for making syrup. This is the time of year to harvest bark since all the sap is running back down the tree. I like to prune my Wild Cherry trees for twigs that I chop up and simmer in water for a bit. I then let it steep for an hour, strain off the liquid, return it to the saucepan and add an equal amount of honey. I reheat gently to slightly thin the honey, stir and pour into a bottle. For extra preservation, add about 1/4 of the volume in brandy. Store in the refrigerator. Wild Cherry is excellent for coughs, congestion, sore throats, anxiety and lots more. Learn more about Wild Cherry.
Go mushroom hunting. Look for Reishi, Maitake and Chicken of the Woods. All are easy to identify and have lots of medicinal benefits. Though Reishi cannot be cooked up, they can be added to broths and soups to extract their benefits while the liquid is simmering. Just remove them before serving. Maitake and Chicken of the Woods can be sautéed, added to casseroles, or dried for using throughout the winter. Medicinal mushrooms all have immunity benefits, anticancer properties and are nourishing to the body. Learn more about Reishi.
What other Autumn Herbal Activities can you think of? Which ones are your children attracted to? Please share with us on our Facebook page!