There is nothing like a change of scenery to get you really thinking about what you do. I’ve just come back from a weeks jaunt to Mannum in South Australia, starkly beautiful, but the goddesses own country for growing that which I am familiar with. When I am out and about I find my ‘herb radar’ works on overdrive, bit like a mobile searching for reception out of range. I’m always seeking out new plants, or things I don’t have locally.
I usually do my yearly pilgrimage to Artemis in October. Red Catherine is a womyn who is a Romani, (Gypsy) and still travels by vardo (Gypsy Wagon) and lives on 168 acres in the Mallee. She walks and talks for the non-humans of this planet. My yearly visit always involves going home with bumper nettle crops that I dry for infusions, vinegars and some fabulous nettle salt from Susan Weed’s Healing Wise Book. March was very different. After a desperately dry summer, Artemis looked even more like a desert, and Catherine’s plants had taken a beating. Even geraniums, rosemary and lavenders that usual struggle on valiantly seemed to have given up.
So I had to look a bit harder for herbs of choice. I’ve always admired the beauty of the Spinifex plant, and the robustness of the Pig Face plant. But really it seemed like slim pickings to the untrained eye. An indigenous local would probably find lots more usable green offerings.
As a plant, Spinifex is mainly used for its resin, and for making implements, tools etc, however the clever Ian White makes a Flower Essence out of the Spinifex. He says it is useful for negative conditions, and a sense of being a victim to illness. It empowers one through emotional understanding of illness http://www.ausflowers.com.au/cms/details.asp?NewsID=2. As I had not had a positive identification of this plant (plant or grass) I will find out more before my next visit. Wise counsel to understand what you are using before you launch in.
Pig Face Carpobrotus rossii has mucilaginous qualities, similar to Aloe Vera. It is also a bush tucker plant, with both the leaves and fruit being useful. The red fruits are quite sweet and the green leaves can be eaten raw in a salad. Explorer John Eyre reported the plant could be used as a relish with almost every kind of food, possibly because of the salty taste.
So this visit was useful for me on a number of levels, but importantly reminding me that herbalism does require some thoughtful preparation. Harvest what is available (and plentiful) when it’s around, otherwise you may have an herbal drought!
Victoria has seemed extra lush since my return, and I am enjoying my local herbal abundance and wild crafting what I can, while it is available.