Mira’s gift

Some plants encourage and help each other, while some others repulsively repel the others: as they do not grow together, they will not go together well in cooking. It takes long time and great care to develop the right feeling fot that. Let us first point out that freshly picked plants and their juices are the most effective as food and medicine. No method of drying, preservation, packing and storing can be useful in avoiding decomposition and decaying of active substances of plants. But, the fact that in our climate the vegetation period does not extend throughout the whole year, and also that we mostly have urban lives where the plants are not available forces us to pick up more when we have the chance and to store the plants.

Plants can be kept for winter by cooking, pickling, fermentation, freezing, but the simplest, cheapest and, when tea herbs are concerned, the most widely used method is drying. However, in order to have the result of the effort involved into picking and drying, to preserve the healing properties and nutritive values of the herbs prepared to the utmost extent, it is necessary to obey the below given rules:

  1. Plants are picked only in clean areas, far from roads, settlements, factories and dumping grounds.
  2. Each sort of plants requires the corresponding soil and position - for that reason the plants should be picked at the places where they look healthy and rich. It is not allowed to pick up underdeveloped, sick and damaged plants.
  3. The plant intended for picking up must be well known and positively distinguished from similar non-healing or even poisonous plant.
  4. Never pick up all the plants from a location. Intentionally leave the best samples for seeds, for reproduction. Think sometimes about somebody else who will happen to pass here and need the plant just like you do.
  5. Plants are picked up only in nice, dry and sunny weather: not in the morning when there is dew still present, not late in the afternoon after the sunset. The plants picked after the rain are still wet, without smell, soon become dark, changed due to fermentation and mould. But, if there is sun tomorrow, hurry up to pick them refreshed and washed from dust.
  6. The matters that incite activism and liveliness which we need are produced by the plant and stored into those parts of it that are active at the moment, that actually play the most difficult part of their role. That is why it is necessary to know when to pick up the individual parts because the time of picking will give us the particular contents of the picked material.
    1. Buds of pine, birch-tree, poplar and other trees are picked up in early spring.
    2. Blossoms are picked as soon as the plant blooms - while they are fresh, fragrant and attractive. Do not collect overbloomed, fecundated, almost dry blossoms.
    3. Leaves are picked before blooming.
    4. Complete over-ground part of the plant is picked at the time of blooming, discarding bottom woodened, dried and rotten parts.
    5. Fruits and seeds are picked when fully ripe.
    6. Bark of healing trees is peeled early in the spring before the leaves start to open or in the autumn when the leaves fall off. Only healthy, flat and young bark is peeled off from lateral twigs whose cutting off will not damage the tree.
    7. Roots are picked only before or after blooming - in the spring, even better in the autumn. Large, developed roots are collected, eliminating rotten and dead sections. The top of the root should be put into the soil again, especially with the plants such as white mallow, horse-raddish or lincura. The buds on the root will produce new plants.
  7. Plants are best to be collected into baskets, not bags or sacks where they will get pressed before reaching home. Different sorts should not be mixed. They should also be dried and packed separately, mixed probably only before use.
  8. Collected plants should be dried before they start to wither. Drying space should be clean, well ventilated and protected from insects and mice. Herbs should be dried in a thin layer on a clean material.
    1. Blossom, leaves and overground parts of plants are dried in the shade, on draught, never exposed to the sun. If drying chamber or oven is used, the temperature must not exceed 40°C.
    2. Roots, underground trunks, seeds and fruits can be dried in the sun too, but protected from insects. Before drying roots should be well cleaned from the earth in cold water using a brush, and if thick, cut longitudinally.
    3. Larger fruits, like apples or pears can be cut and dried too. Here also, when drying in the oven, the temperature must not exceed 40°C.
  9. Well dried herbs are kept in clean bags from strong or multilayered paper. If it is not too bulky, it should be broken up using fingers, a knife or mortar just before cooking. Even for well packed herbs light, heat, oxygen, humidity, dust, insects and mice are harmful. Therefore, the bags should be kept in a closet or chest, on a dry, dark and cool place, never near some products with strong and long-lasting smell.
  10. In home-made pharmacy poisonous herbs are not desirable!
  11. Herbs should be prepared in undamaged enameled pots, and if water (either cold or hot) is poured over, it is good to use a glass or ceramic bowl.
  12. The teas which are used to relieve difficulties with respiratory organs (and to stimulate discharge as well) can be sweetened, best with honey. Those intended for digestion organs and for rinsing should not be sweetened.
  13. Teas should not be overused. In most cases 2-3 cups a day are quite enough.
  14. Even best kept herbs lose their value in time. Therefore, supplies should not be prepared for many years in advance. Make the quantity of your supplies as much as you need until the next spring.
  15. Plants need dedication, patience and good will, open heart and clean hands. If you do not have the strength or nerves for all this, turn to the things that bring you more joy and get the herbs in a shop or from someone who possesses enthusiasm for this job. It is not worth taking from ill-humoured people.