By Enola Gay Paratus
Our Wildcraft Journey Started in the Outdoors Classroom
Our wildcraft journey and path to wildcrafted herbs, wine, jelly (and much more) began with an afternoon nature walk—the most anticipated portion of our homeschool science class. Armed with notebooks, pencils, and an endless curiosity, the children settled themselves into a small meadow and began sketching their selected pieces of nature. They would observe and sketch in the great outdoors and carry their sketches home to conduct further research and write a paper on their findings.
In My Own Backyard
While they sketched and noted their observations, I pondered potassium. I was in the process of putting together notes on various uncommon diseases and their home-based, alternative treatments and needed a local, plant-based form of potassium for one specific remedy. Most of my research had directed me toward bananas as the best form of potassium. However, bananas aren’t native to the northwest and I wanted something that was available in my own backyard.
Gathering pine cones, flowers, miscellaneous wild berries, and various leaves, we trudged home to complete our classroom work. All afternoon, I heard fascinating facts about the life cycle of pine cones and the reproductive system of flowers. I was gifted with beautiful rubbings of fall leaves and pretty woodland arrangements filled with local flora. And then, a particular tidbit of information caught my attention. One small, blue berry that we had carried home from our afternoon excursion contained, among other nutrients, high levels of potassium.
The Beginning of my Love of Wildcrafting
The humble elderberry, which grew in abundance in my backyard, was packed with potassium—just the ingredient required for the oral rehydration solution that I’d been researching! Thus began my great love of wildcrafting. After bottling our first batch of locally sourced elderberry wine, I began seeing potential wildcraft foodstuffs on every country walk. Although my garden is temperamental and rarely yields my expected harvest, the woods never fail to provide in abundance. Wildcrafting has become a much-anticipated family endeavor. In the spring, we harvest rose petals for rose petal jelly and in the fall, the rose provides a second wildcraft harvest in the form of rose hips. We make rose hip jelly, rose hip wine and even dry the hips for a vitamin C packed winter tea.
In the early summer, we seek out wild honeysuckle and bottle its’ beautiful, clear, amber-colored liquid for jelly and gather thimble-berries for their vibrant, red-colored berries, turning them into thick, rich jam. July brings the huckleberry harvest along with a family favorite, blackberries. As the days grow crisp, the elderberries ripen, and we harvest gallon upon gallon of the tiny blue and blackberries.
We make wildcraft elderberry wine and elderberry syrup and elderberry juice. We gather wild apples for applesauce, dried apples, and canned apples. We press apple cider and make apple cider vinegar. Wild pears and plums are gathered by the bushel until our cup runneth over. We have harvested camas and cattails and mushrooms, and have even collected thistle flowers to make vegetable- ased cheese rennet.
Finding Medicinal Wildcrafted Herbs
Our wildcrafting hasn’t only been limited to jams, jellies, and wines. We also find medicinal wildcrafted herbs everywhere we look. Stinging nettle grows wild by our creek, providing an excellent source of iron, both as a tincture and as an early spring soup. We collect St. John’s wart, to steep in olive oil, an excellent preparation for skin problems, and the common dandelion for its concentrations of Vitamin C, iron, and Vitamin A. What a rich garden of wildcrafted herbs we have at our very fingertips!
The great joy of wildcrafting is reaping the abundant harvest that God has prepared. As your shelves fill with the blessings of the harvest, may your heart be filled with His blessings as well.
Enola Gay Paratus lives in a “shouse” on 30 acres in the American Redoubt. She and her husband have five children, ranging in age from 7 to 25. Their shouse is off-grid and Enola cooks most of her family’s meals on the large wood cookstove that fills their kitchen. Read her story in the Summer 2015 Molly Green Magazine. Enola is the author of The Prepared Family Cookbook and The Prepared Family Guide to Uncommon Diseases.
If you are interested in other fun activities to add to your homeschool curriculum please read our article about getting your kids inspired to read.