Gardening · Herbalism · Preserving

The Fleeting Season of Medicinal Flowers

The past few weeks every time I was in the gardens – or out on walks in the woods, if I saw flowers popped up, I was picking them. This is a yearly thing for me, in late summer as we approach fall.

I played it right, and got a lot picked before the rains showed up this week. Just a day of rain – but very heavy at times. The sun will come out till end of the week, which should promote the final blooms for me to pick even more.

Heavy rain for a whole week, next week, is predicted. So I know I am almost done for the season.

Why should you pick medicinal flowers?

When you buy online, you are taking a gamble of where the item was grown, and how it was grown.

If you are interested in making body care products, you might see crunchy mamas talking about making infused calendula oil to use in salves, soaps and more. Which is a great use for calendula and an excellent intro to herbalism. But it also takes a lot of flowers to do it. And if you buy online, you have no idea how they were really sourced – or if they were grown in the USA (or your country as it applies to you). I do not want to be using Chinese grown flowers in my herbalism!

If you grow your own (and if do this, most flowers will self seed and spread on their own by year 3) you win in two ways: you have a source to pick from, and you provide for the native pollinators amply. You also will get free seed yearly to store for the next year, if you choose to.

I let the flowers grow randomly amongst the vegetables. It’s a win win for pollination.

Strawberry Calendula.

Strawberry Calendula. As you can see it comes in a varying range of colors.

Orange Calendula. This is the version most think of when they buy the flowers dried. It’s often pale yellow due to being exposed to heat while drying.

White Lavender. Lavender comes in many shades, not just lavender the color. Find a good grower and find a vast world you didn’t know about. Some of these types you can grow from seed, others must be started by plugs.

Native wild rose petals, to be carefully plucked. These are Sitka Roses.

And no not forget to take some rose hips. From Nootka Roses.

For best results pick once the morning dew has gone, but before it gets warmed up (so midday from say noon to 3 pm is a no-go). You want dry blossoms to pick.

It’s a simple process. I have a small picking basket lined with cardboard baskets. As I walk along the rows, I pluck and put in by type.

When I get done, I get out paper lunch sacks and add each particular flower to a bag. I fold over a bit, to keep out light and dust. Then every day or two, I flip the bag over. Don’t overload the bag of course, if you have lots of flowers, and if they are heavy, such as Calendula, better to only have a dozen blossoms in each bag.

The flowers will slowly dry naturally. They won’t lose their color nor their essential oils deeply hidden in them. It’s far better than drying flowers in a dehydrator with heat. You pay for it by the flowers losing aroma and color.

As for rose hips, I cut them in half, scrape out seeds and pith, then air dry – you can leave them on a paper towel lined plate, or do the paper bag method.

Once everything is fully dry, or you remember about all those bags loitering around, transfer them to dry mason jars. Store out of direct light and use within a year for best results.