Yesterday I went out on another plant excursion. I went looking for wild roses, which I did find, but not in a good place to harvest any. It's good to know they are around here in my beloved Sky Islands. It's funny the way plant allies show up in your life. A lot of herbalists talk about how certain plants will show up in their gardens and such just at the right time, when they need them. I have also had this experience, but I also got to thinking about how maybe it is just a matter of NOTICING what is around you.
Before I left Arizona, I never dreamed of finding wild roses in the mountains here. So I never even looked. But alas, after moving away, finding the roses in Colorado, at just the time I needed them, and then coming home, I realized that plant ally was probably also here, I had only to look. Indeed...I know the habitat where roses are likely to grow here, so I went to that habitat..and sure enough, there she is. They like a fair amount of moisture, so I found a moist runoff creek, which was actually mostly dry right now, but there are still puddles of water. Around those types of moist seeps in our mountains grow specific kinds of plants, including alders and roses, which seem to like to grow together.
I wasn't able to harvest any roses, but I did find a freshly fallen young alder tree, with leaves of green a plenty, and was able to bring home both leaves and bark for making into an anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, antiseptic oil. In addition there were smatterings of two species of monarda, willows, a HUGE stand of beautiful flowering Butterfly Weed (asclepias tuberosa). It's a widespread species, but isn't frequently found in large numbers. I've been to this wash so many times, and I've never once seen this beautiful plant there, in bloom and such quantity. Maybe I'd missed it before, maybe it was the wrong season, or maybe I just wasn't aware of her before.
While I was there, I was also happy to find more of the beloved wild grape in great abundance, and the dampness of this wash being somewhat greater than the one I harvested grape leaves from a few weeks ago, these leaves were significantly larger. Gratefully, I collected many, many grape leaves to bring home and add to our diet. Fresh leaves went well with our dinner, and were used to scoop up brown rice mixed with piima cream and parmesan. Many more I preserved in a salty brine with coriander to use later. I also reserved a fair number of them to dry for infusions.
Grape leaf infusion is one of my favorite refreshing summer drinks, tart, astringent, cooling and full of the vital force of a wild grape vine, climbing all over a tree vigourously, despite heat, drought or any other hardship. It rambles and climbs with determination and in no uncertain way, puts itself 'all in" to growing upward. These beautiful vines were still flowering a bit, so I got to bury my nose in the sweet smell of grape flowers while I got up close and personal with the vines to collect the larger leaves, perfect for wrapping food in. Grape leaves are also full of wonderful nutritional compounds including Vitamin C, bioflavanoids, minerals and anti-oxidant resveratrol.
It is a beautiful wild food, and superb medicine. Many traditional herbals speak to the health giving properties of grape, and its abundance and tastiness make it well worth your while to find some and add it to your apothecary and pantry.