Lately Mom and I have been picking St. John’s Wort on a daily basis for one of our newer salves. It has been a mixed experience (sometimes fun, sometimes hot and unbelievably sticky) but I feel as though this bright and beautiful plant has definitely taught me a few things.
I thought I could restrain myself and just bring one basket out. After picking my share of St. John’s Wort, however, I noticed that the plantain was popping up all over the yard. Might as well. Then the borage began to call my name. Wait is that a Calendula flower popping up? Before I knew it my basket was full of bunches of this and that every which way. It seemed as though the harder I tried to separate everything the more they mixed.
The lesson I learned? Don’t try to restrain yourself, just bring more baskets.
2. The bees are incredibly polite (will work beside you, everyone is just doing their job)
This really surprised me. Not because I think bees are bloodthirsty sting machines but because I’m taking away their pollen. Usually how it works is that I establish myself on one side of the bush and they gather pollen from the other side. And then we switch. Sometimes it takes several back-and-forths before both the bees and I get our fill but it has worked out pretty well so far. No bees or Mollys have been harmed in the harvest so far.
3. The bees will let you know if you missed any (or if you’re done)
The bees will also let you know if you have forgotten any flowers along the way. If you take your time and be patient you can usually follow the bees throughout the bush. Toward the end I was watching them and found an entire section unpicked! I was able to add even more than I expected to the infusions and have some bragging rights on the commune.
With following the bees in mind I should really emphasize the need to be patient. If you pick too close to the bees they will let you know that it’s time to back off. Give them their space and they will give you yours.
4. Understand when you need to miss a spot (for sustainability)
While researching for an article I wrote for The Essential Herbal Magazine I learned the origins of the phrase, “giving the devil his due.” In some instances it is what was lost before or during harvest from animals, weeds, or really any force of nature. I tend to think of this as a way of knowing when to stop. Sometimes when I’m gardening I focus in on the task at hand and I forget everything around me. This was the case with the St. John’s Wort. Before I knew it I was hacking through tall grass and terrifying baby bunnies to only get maybe ten flowers. It wasn’t worth the stress I put on myself and the environment. Since then I’ve decided to take Mother Nature’s hint and let a few things run wild.
5 5. There will always be more next year
Don’t worry, there will be plenty next year if you didn’t grow as much as you wanted. Luckily in our world we are able to order what we lack or substitute. Don’t have any more spearmint? Well there is more chocolate mint or peppermint. Need some evening primrose? Luckily your neighbor had more than she could handle this year. Oh! And you can make it a trade by giving her some basil. The world of herbs has a funny and beautiful way of taking care of itself so relax and look at the big picture. It’ll show up when you need it.