Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Backyard Herbalism

Lately I've been thinking (once again) about classifications and/or demographics for the magazine. A group of foragers were discussing general interest in wild foods, which led me to contribute my own answer - which included the term Backyard Herbalism.In the conversation, I said that most of the readers of The Essential Herbal Magazine are backyard herbalists. So... because words are fascinating to me, this exchange has had me going over this phrase in my mind, trying to decide exactly what that means - to me. The gentlemen in the group felt that men were much more interested, although Angie Goodloe and I both declared that we had an overwhelming number of women when we taught. The magazine is 95% or more women readers - not counting housemates - so I know they are also interested in the wild plants and weeds that grow outside our doors.
So what does this mean? What is a backyard herbalist? I can appreciate the delicate display of hothouse flowers and the unusual growth habit of these plants who depend on glass and forced air. The flower gardens at Longwood or any of the local parks are great! But I consider myself to be a backyard herbalist, and...
...what REALLY takes my breath away are the useful plants. The more useful, the more exciting!

We are the ones out there in pinching the tops off the St John's Wort, kneeling in a patch of plantain, or lifting the leaves to check underneath for winter chickweed. Ask anyone who has been with me when a new and long-sought-after plant crosses my path, and they will tell you of the nearly embarrassing display of excitement that I am completely unable to conceal.
Backyard herbalists learn to make infused oils, vinegars, and tinctures. We dry the plants that we find and mix them into potions and lotions. We have a little something for just about anything that could come up. At the same time, we don't pretend to be doctors, and we don't presume to treat serious issues that need to be seen and evaluated by trained medical personnel. Some are highly trained, and may go a little further medicinally than I would.
Oh, and I love my sack of cardamom seeds, and the bags of sandalwood, dragon's blood, and frankincense that I couldn't possibly have found in my yard or in my rambles. The exotic stuff is wonderful, so don't make me give it up! It's just that it is the icing on the cake, and the cake is made from ingredients I found outside.


That's how I would identify a backyard herbalist. No Marthas here. Just tree-hugging, dirt worshipping hippies. And that's who is reading the magazine, too!

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Here, here! The men in my house have no interest in what is in my potions as long as they are here when needed! I am a long way from being medicinally proficient with herbs but the standards here in my little piece of the world and I have become quite intimate!

Pat

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