On the day that this is posted, it will be the day of the Summer Solstice: the longest day and shortest night of the year and generally considered to be the beginning of summer. Whereas normally I would have taken the day as a personal vacation day (and religious holiday) from work, I’ve only had my current job for four months so couldn’t easily take time off just yet. So to celebrate early, I donned my apron (useful for carrying things) and my husband and I wandered outdoors in the early evening at the end of a hot day.
Our property is forty acres of tree farm, about an hour’s drive outside of Portland. We decided to go out and see which edible plants we could find, as well as enjoy being together and in nature. One of the first things we spotted was an eastern cottontail. Then it was checking the tree line and next to the barn for plants. We found herb robert, daisies, and thistles. Finally we gathered some field horsetail, pineapple weed, wild carrot, and a single stalk of henbit.
Next we forayed (carefully) through the sheep field to the creek. I snipped off a couple blackberry flowers and a few leaves. We looked for agates in the water and I was grateful to be wearing my waterproof sandals because I was able to wander straight into the water. My husband pointed out raccoon tracks, and I found a couple bobcat prints in the soft mud right next to the water. All while discussing some of the various native composite fruit species (and how many of them I have sampled).
As it got later in the evening we headed back to the house. I did some quick research online to be sure of what plants we had gathered and how useful they might be to us. We decided that we wouldn’t use the horsetail because it can be a problem for people prone to potassium deficiency (such as myself), and double- and then triple-checked that we had, in fact, gathered wild carrot and NOT poison hemlock! We eventually decided on the pineapple weed.
Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) is also known as wild chamomile, and for good reason. It grows low to the ground and the flowers have no showy petals; yet the smell, flavor, and medicinal benefits are similar to that of its domestic relative German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla).
After snipping off the flowers, I washed them thoroughly. Then it was into the mesh strainer and boiling water poured over the top. The nice thing about tisanes is that for many there is no such thing as oversteeping, since they don’t contain tannins. Since we hadn’t harvested all that much, I let it steep for 15-20 minutes. A half spoonful of raw, local honey stirred in is just enough to enhance the flavor. A flavor which–in my opinion–is simply divine. The flowers smell incredibly sweet and fragrant, and that translates to the flavor and makes an amazing tisane. Not as floral as German chamomile, pineapple weed is sweeter and almost fruity. Many think that the aroma and flavor are reminiscent of pineapple, thus the name. I know that we will be harvesting more in the next few weeks, and drying it for future use.
For now, my husband and I shared that mug of tisane after dinner; to unwind at the very end of the day and quietly, peacefully, welcome the Summer.