Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Late Winter's Gift: Chickweed

 Other than that stray sunbeam poking out here and there, nothing says Spring! to me quite like chickweed.  To my skin it is still a bit bitter out, but I will put on the wool and go out for Stellaria media , "the little star" "in the midst".  I like to say "in the mist", because that is when you will find her.

If you wait for the days to warm before venturing out to forage, you are going to miss chickweed!  She likes it cool and moist, just like these late winter/early spring days we are experiencing here in the Tennessee valley.  Look for her in somewhat low lying protected areas where there is no danger of strong sunlight and a plentiful water supply.  In this region, you may find her in shady spots as late as early May.

Here is some vibrant chickweed nestled against the unused gate to our rabbit yard...
Look at those nodding flower buds!  Though chickweed can be harvested at any stage when she is lush and green, this is my favorite.  I am enchanted by the energetic potential of those unopened buds. 

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  -Anais Nin
Helping us blossom is exactly what chickweed wants to do.  She is here to nourish and revive you, the first sign of green Spring goodness in our dull, sunless winter days.  Pure potential!  Packed with minerals and chlorophyll Stellaria is sure to put a spring (ha!) in your step :)  After a season of warm, cooked, grounding foods, she will draw us outdoors and lift our spirits with her vibrant energy and nutrition. 

For those with digestive problems chickweed can be of service soothing inflamed gut tissues.  If you are a "cold" person (weak digestion, cold hands and feet) that does not tolerate raw foods well, dress her with raw apple cider vinegar or maybe a vinaigrette with freshly ground mustard seeds to add warmth and aid digestion.  Maybe you would like to throw her in some scrambled eggs just before they are done.  Though the little star lady (as Susan Weed refers to her) is versatile, do not overcook her.  Part of her charm is her cooling energy.

Here she is mixed with local greens and accompanied by some wild onions we harvested at the same time...

After a winter of dry heat that leaves mucous membranes uncomfortably dry and inflamed, chickweed will bring back moisture and get our own fluids moving.  Winter is stagnant, and so often our bodies become this way after staying indoors winterlong.  Chickweed's cool, moist nature will aid our body in moving and clearing, pushing out stagnancy and inflammation.  Eat her daily as a spring tonic and delicious salad green or apply her directly to inflamed areas. 

Chickweed can be eaten fresh, prepared as a vinegar, or as a tincture.  I suggest all three, for they are all different medicines for the body and soul.  The "little star" is one of the most common and plentiful wild foods available.   Walk out your front door right now and I assure you, she is not far away.  If you forage for nothing else, please do not pass up the chickweed!  If you are pregnant or breastfeeding (or both!) then I doubly encourage you to go out and supercharge your body with the energy of the wild chickweed.

Cultivated foods can not rival the nutrition and energy that wild foods provide.  To remind our bodies, on a cellular and energetic level, of our wildness, our animal nature, is a necessity.  To forgo this will not be without consequences.  The simple act of squatting at the edge of your garden or yard, giving chickweed your attention, touching, tasting, harvesting, will take your consciousness back.  Back to its inception, back to a place of peaceful contentment nearly gone in our modern world.  You will, for a moment, actualize the hunter-gatherer you already are deep inside.  Bring it forth.

Take your children out.  Show them the chickweed.  Pluck it straight from the Earth and taste it.  Teach them young that we are wild, that the Earth will nourish us if we just open our eyes and hearts to her offerings.
For more information on chickweed, check out Susan Weed's book,Healing Wise, and don't forget to see Susan while she is here in Chattanooga March 26th-27th.  See the flyer here