Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wonderful Herbs of North Carolina

North Carolina has gone through many changes in it's 400 year history. Populations swell and grow. Wars are fought and cities built. But a part of North Carolina that has stayed nearly the same are the wonderful medicinal herbs that have grown in our area. Since frogs learned to hop, the dense variety of wild herbs have thrived here, particularly in the western hills and valleys. With more and more people visiting and moving permanently to the area, all aspects of this biosphere change. There is more demand for land usage, there is less natural resources to go around, but there are things we can do to identify and help curb one problem. With natural 'alternative' medicine gaining more popularity, funded studies and other public support there is a new demand for some of the wild medicine that grows in our woods. Other parts of this country do not resemble the amazing density of medicine that we enjoy. We need to be mindful at how we steward this land, not just the medicine that we use. A famous herb that has shared history with the Carolina peoples is American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L). An incredible herb that is celebrated with its own festival in Catskill, NY. It is one of the oldest commodities that early settlers used to trade, with some 25+ year old roots selling for more than $10,000. We export so many tons to other countries every year, the demand on this little plant is growing. Here are some helpful resources for individuals to be good stewards to this little plant:

There are many, many plants that grow wild here, on the side of the road, in your backyard, in neighborhood common areas as well as the woods. It's a simple idea, but try out a wild 'garden' this year in your yard. There are helpful growing guides in the links listed below. It will connect you to this area in new ways, in old ways of medicine making. Bloodroot, Mayapple, Cohosh, Echinacea, Goldenseal and Elder are some others that you can add to a wild garden. Because most of these grow in the woods around here, most of them like higher elevations with shade. But play around with them and see if they can find a home on your land. Have only sunny spots in your yard-en? Try out passionflower, cleavers, chickweed or purslane. These are all "weeds" that you may have pulled out of your garden in the past. Or one of the best wild plants in our area that I can almost guarantee is growing in your yard-en right now: Dandelion. Gourmet grocers and restaraunts in major cities charge an arm and a leg for a "dent de lion" salad. Why not grow your own (or rather, why not NOT pull that weed and let it grow into salad greens or filling for wild herb spanokopita!?)

Good luck! And happy wild gardening!!

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