This morning I had the leisure of taking a short hike around our new location at the High Country Professional Building at the top of Golden Gate Canyon. Solstice at 9200′ above sea level, the wild flowers are in full-unfurlment, the wild grasses are bright green, the aspen leaves rustle in the gentle wind, and every bird and insect hums their harmonies to the song of nature.
Here are five of the wild edible and medicinal allies I met on my walk this morning, and that you will meet this Saturday at our annual Summer Solstice Wildcrafting Party! (Don’t have your tickets yet? It’s not too late…click here to register today!)
This is what mugwort looks like along the front range of the Colorado Rockies – soft, silvery, tall and thin, although the leaves can appear rounder and fuller. It’s no wonder this plant is often mistaken for Sage, and honestly I’ve never yet met a wild Salvia in this region – though many claim to have it growing wild. It is more likely they have Mugwort, which is just as well: mugwort is an excellent menstrual regulator, quick remedy for indigestion, and does make delightful smudge sticks that give off a purifying and protecting aura when offered.
Also called Bearberry, Uva Ursi is a strong ally for kidney and bladder problems of ever kind. A strong infusion of the leaves is used to treat UTI, cystitis, and kidney stones. The berries are not edible, but the flowers are. This delightful plant grows like a soft carpet between the pine trees, aspen and juniper bushes.
Lodgepole Pine trees are distinguished from other pine by the tall, slender, cylindrical trunks. The needles are high in vitamin C which can be obtained by making a strong decoction with fresh needles, chewing on them or making pine needle vinegar. The resin is naturally anti-microbial and can be chewed to relieve sore throats (not recommended with loose fillings!) and applied topically to small cuts. It is also collected, dried, powdered and used as incense.
Usnea grows on dead or dying trees and can often be found on the ground after a wind storm. Gently pull the tiny hairs apart and there should be a white, stretchy fiber keeping the stems together – this way you know you have Usnea. She is a powerful immune tonic, fill a jar with ethically wildcrafted usnea (it usually takes me a whole summer to gather this much), fill with 70% vodka and top it off with Apple Cider Vinegar (a potentiating addition, I learned this from Brigitte Mars). Decant in 4 to 6 weeks and store in dark glass jars.
The entire peppergrass plant, or poor man’s pepper, is edible. The singular seed pods branching out from the stem are especially pungent – use in homemade wild mustard, curries, stews and tossed salads.