Wild Gardens

My earliest memory is of my grandmother,

mixing and crushing herbs in her kitchen

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Raspberry leaf, catnip, peppermint, and chamomile

She was an herbalist, a woman of the earth,

moving with its heartbeat and seasons

She would take me out to her garden

and then to the wild woods beyond.

"There are some herbs as can't be found in gardens," she said,

as she carefully took the bark off a willow branch.

I would hunt through the leaf mold, small fingers ready

To pull up plantains, ground ivy, and dandelions

Returning to home, to tie them in bundles,

Hanging all across the kitchen to dry

From the first buds of spring to the first frosts of fall

We kept it up, year after year until I was twelve

She died that year, with no herbs to help her,

and her kitchen was silent, and there were no more trips to the wood.

We buried her at the frost and I put herbs into the ground with her instead of flowers

When the time for tears had passed,

I planted more in the spring, to bloom on her grave

And then I took her knowledge to heart and went out into the woods again.

Author's Note: NEVER use herbs, especially wild ones, for food or medicine unless you are absolutely certain that they're what you think they are.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – Reference to the chorus of the song "Scarborough Fair."

Raspberry leaf – Often used in tea for regulation of women's monthly cycles, as well as easing pregnancy.

Catnip – used in tea to help cure cold symptoms.

Peppermint and chamomile – both are used in tea.

Willow bark – can be used as a painkiller; salicylic acid is derived from the bark.

Plantains – Plantago, not to be confused with the banana-like fruit of the same name. Very versatile; can be used to heal wounds or added to salads.

Dandelions – The leaves can be used in salads, or the root as a coffee substitute.