Hedge Witch: Into the Wilds…

Let me take you on a journey through the wilds of nature and back to the roots and bones of witchcraft, a natural witchcraft that works with the seasons and all the natural items that Mother Nature provides drawing on magical folk lore with a dash of hedge witch and gypsy magic too.

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Flowers, seeds, roots and leaves...

How to harvest: Flowers, seeds, bark, roots, berries & leaves

If you are picking flowers or plants for magical workings then here is a basic guideline:

If you can collect fallen flowers, seeds, twigs etc then even better because the plant is already done with them but if you want to remove them directly from the plant always be careful not to damage the plant itself, only take what you need, always leave enough of the plant left to continue growing and always ask permission from the plant first.

Always use a sharp knife or cutters, blunt blades leave jagged edges which can leave the plant open to infection.  

Flowers – It is usually best to pick flowers when the bud is fully open and cut the stalk at the first leaf joint.  If possible pick them in the morning before the sun gets too hot.  To dry them lay them out on kitchen towel in a warm dry place (I put them on trays in the conservatory).  Once dried store them in a dark glass jar with a detailed label (what they are, date you harvested them).

Seeds - Seed harvesting should be done on a dry day, you don’t want to take home seed heads that are all soggy from the rain because they will go mouldy. Once seed pods have changed from green to brown and can be easily split, you can begin collecting flower seeds.  Cut the pod or seed head from the stalk and pop into a paper bag.  Or you can hang seed heads on stalks upside down with a paper bag tied around to catch the seeds.

Bark – You can successfully harvest small amounts of bark direct from the tree, birch trees in particular lend themselves to this practise without suffering too much but…and here’s the thing, I can never bring myself to strip bark direct from a tree.  I do however pick up pieces of fallen bark or strip bark from branches that have been removed by forest wardens or that perhaps a storm has knocked down.   If you don’t harvest bark properly, you can kill the tree.   If you want to give it a try it is best to only do so in the autumn when the tree is starting to prepare for winter and is drawing all its energy into the core.  Depending on how much bark you need you can just shave a little piece direct from the tree or cut a small branch off and use all the bark from that.  But do your research first, identify the type of tree as there are different methods for different trees – Google should be able to help you with the finer details.

Roots – to harvest roots from a plant first of all check that it is a healthy looking plant and that you have identified it correctly.  Some people find the largest plant or what they call ‘the grandmother plant’ and ask permission to harvest some roots, if the answer comes back as a yes then you can harvest one or two of the smaller plants that surround the grandmother.  Roots are best gathered in spring or early autumn.  Although I personally think autumn is best because the plant has been allowed to grow, flower and spread seed over the summer.  Dig the plant out carefully and if possible just trim pieces of the root from the ends and then pop the plant back into the earth.  If this isn’t possible then please make sure that there are plenty of others from the species growing in the surrounding areas.  Once you get them home wash off as much soil as you can then dry them well.  To dry roots out I find that chopping them into smaller pieces works best then lay them out on a flat tray and put in a dry, dark place.  When they are completely dry they will feel dry to the touch but still be slightly spongy.  Store in dark glass jars with detailed labels.

Leaves – if you are harvesting herbs then it is best to pick them in the morning and either tie them into bundles and hang them up or lay them out separately on trays in a dry, dark place (leaving them in sunshine fades the colour).  For plant leaves such as trees or wild plants you can look in the autumn for fallen leaves which will already be dry or you can pick them directly from the plant or tree.  Be careful not to tear or rip them from the plant, just gently pluck each one.  Then lay them out to dry.  For a lot of the fresh green plant leaves they usually keep their colour and dry better if you harvest them direct from the plant or tree in the spring.  Again store in dark glass jars as sunlight can fade them.

Berries – now these are a bit trickier to dry, with something like a blackberry you are probably better picking them ripe and eating them straight away or they freeze well.  If you want to use blackberry in magical workings then go for the petals of the flower or the leaves.  Leave the fruit for yummy puddings.  However berries from the hawthorn are much easier to dry, pick them ripe thread them onto a string using a needle then hang them up to dry.

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Rachel is a witch...has been for a very long time, not the green skinned warty kind obviously...the real sort - but she is also a working wife and mother living in Hampshire, England who has also been lucky enough to write and have published a growing stack of books on the Craft. She loves to learn she loves to study and continues to do so each and every day but has learned the most from actually getting outside and doing it. She regularly gives talks and workshops at pagan events. Rachel is also founder and an Elder at the Kitchen Witch online school of witchcraft. She likes to laugh...and eat cake...
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