Gone are the days when spring cleaning only applies to the home. Spring is the time to cleanse and detox the body, too. It’s no accident that fresh, young herbal greens arrive in spring, just when we need their healing nutrients most. As owners of the co-op, we have access to some of the highest quality ingredients, especially when it comes to wildcrafted produce. However, foraging is also a great way to get some exercise and enjoy Minnesota’s natural beauty. Spring is a season of emergence and rebirth, so it is the perfect time to make a positive change for better health.
The concept of a spring cleansing of the body appears in many cultures. Herbs are a staple of Native American medicine, and for almost any kind of ailment, tinctures, salves or teas made of leaves, flowers, bark or berries are applied or consumed for treatment. African healing practices are also influenced by natural cycles and seasonality and recognize that healing lies not in a synthetic pharmaceutical drug, but in balancing our bodies with the natural world.
Outside of the co-op, one of the only places to find better natural ingredients is in nature. Many families have foraging traditions they take part in as soon as the ground thaws. There are a number of books available to help identify edible plants and maps that outline public hunting and fishing grounds in the region. Roots can be dug as soon as the ground thaws, and the tender leaves of wild nettles or ramps can be picked as soon as they emerge. So, as we awaken from our winter hibernation and bask in warmer longer days, be intentional about what you eat, dress lighter and be more physically active.
If you’re going to harvest wild herbs and roots for your spring cleansing regimen, here are some rules to follow from “Mother Earth Living”:
1. Know what you’re getting. Don’t harvest from the wild any herb that you can’t identify with absolute certainty. If you’re among the botanically challenged, find a local herb club or botanical expert to guide you on your wildcrafting trip.
2. Stay away from roadsides and other areas where wild herbs are subjected to fumes from vehicles and/or may have been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Animals frequent wild areas, so wash fresh leaves carefully and, if questionable, cook wild foods.
3. Ask first and harvest gently. Contact park officials or landowners to ask permission to wildcraft. Only harvest wild plants when they are in great abundance and then harvest less than one-tenth of herbs growing above the ground; allow enough leaves remaining for the plant to rejuvenate itself.