I’ve been planning on a nice weekend stomp through the woods. Been planning it for days in the hopes of preparing tinctures and dried herbs to store up for the winter months. I saved up glass jars and cleaned out the fridge for more (old pickle jar with only three pickles left? Mine now!). I purchased the alcohol for tinctures, created more space for herb drying, made lists of what I hoped to find and studied up. But as the weekend nears, the forecast for the entire Northeast U.S. looms dark and gloomy, suggestions of isolated heavy rain and thunderstorms peppering the weather reports. Bummer.
“I have a rain poncho,” says I. “I have an umbrella, waterproof shoes, a healthy constitution,” I declare. But alas, our botanical friends aren’t too keen on being harvested during inclement conditions. Some herbalists will say it is the spirit of the plant, feeling very much as we do on a rainy day. Poor energy, lack of attention focussed on their healing properties. Others will tell you a more scientific reasoning having to do with the plant’s growth patterns, chemical makeup, etc. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.
Although I’m somewhat timid about admitting I converse with plants, it does in fact happen. Since early days of buying $1 houseplants off the sick rack and “talking” them back into health (many of whom I still have 15 years later), I haven’t been able to help myself. I used to poo poo the idea when reading herbalism books, but when I started wildcrafting I’d find myself talking to the St. John’s Wort. “Oh, you’re looking particularly sunny this morning, St. John! My goodness, aren’t we in fine form?” I could swear St. John smiles back in all of his glorious yellowness. So in this regard I can understand the idea that a plant may not “want” to go home with you just yet while getting rained upon. I don’t like visiting anyone either when I’ve been standing in the rain for very long. I look somewhat like a damp labradoodle.
On the scientific side of things, perhaps I’m a bit hazier on the specifics. I know that plants have jobs to do like bringing the water from the roots, producing chlorophyl, and of course growing. That tends to happen when a plant has had a nice drink, so we can only imagine that maybe the chemical composition of our botanical friend would be altered at the moment; busy growing and producing.
No matter what side of the trellis one grows upon, most wildcrafters aren’t going to harvest in the rain. And most will tell you early morning after the dew or early evening before the dew are the best times for gathering. So what does one do when one’s plant parade has been rained upon? Go out anyway! I’m going to gear up in my best waterproof clothing, do my usual stomping, observe, learn. I’ve been in the woods in the rain, even thunderstorms, and I have to say it’s a magical time. Sure, the plants are distracted with their business but they’re friendly fellows and really don’t mind if you just hang out with them awhile. When the sun comes back out and the plants are fresh and green, then I’ll go back and see who might want to come home with me, when they’re feeling their sunny best.