Essay by by Hannah Thorne and Katherine Elmer from Spoonful Herbals.
As the days grow longer and the sun’s rays grow stronger, so too does Vermont’s lush landscape of medicinal plants! Summer is a busy time for harvesting, as many plants have a short window of time in which they are at their medicinal peak. To take full advantage of these short abundances of medicine, Spoonful Herbals hosts gleaning events called Herb Mobs, where we gather volunteer members from the community to get outside and get harvesting with us at our partner sites- including local organic farms or others with documented safe land-use practices. One of these events took place on the morning of June 27th, where we gathered at Shelburne Farms to harvest red clover.
Red clover is a common backyard plant and Vermont's official State Flower. It’s “painted” leaves and dazzling purplish-pink flowers are often overlooked or mowed over; although this plant has a lot to give. It is one of our “nutritive tonic” herbs, providing bioavailable calcium and magnesium. It also enhances functioning of the lymphatic system, which helps the body resolve swelling and heal from injuries or surgeries. It also rivals soy as a “phytoestrogen” which is protective against breast cancer and sources of estrogen from our environment (such as BPA in plastics or growth hormone in some meats). And so, baskets in hand, we harvested the top portion of the stems of this plant: the flower along with the leaf set growing directly below the blossom. We were lucky enough to have a sunny, dry day at Shelburne; the perfect conditions for preserving our haul, and for observing the calming lake water nearby. About an hour in, our baskets were full and we consolidated the plant material into one bag that was then sold to the Railyard Apothecary to be distributed to the community as medicine. We were proud to hear from staff at Railyard that our local clover was beautifully dried to preserve it’s vibrant green and purple color and, as a result, it rivaled the quality of the best organic clover available to purchase in the marketplace!
Proceeds from Spoonful Herbals’ Herb Mobs are used in part to improve affordability and access to herbal medicine in our community. Special thanks to City Market for their generous support of our 2017 Herb Mob season and to our farm partners such as Shelburne Farms! Events like this are a great way to deepen the relationship between neighbors in Vermont (students, farmers, other community members), and to introduce them to the plant medicines available in their natural surroundings. Specifically, the aim is to show them ways that the common plants in their “backyards” can support the health and well-being of themselves and their community. Join us next time! Look for our schedule of events on Facebook at “Spoonful Herb Mobs” or learn more about our programs on our website at SpoonfulHerbals.org.