Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Winter Harvest Day

My back felt nearly healed today, so of course I thought it would be a good idea to haul my ass and my four kids, bundled nearly beyond the point of recognition, out to my favorite "wild" spot to harvest poplar species buds. I become nervous to the point of insanity every year that I'll miss the bud harvest because Ohio late winter/early spring weather is nothing if not unpredictable and so is my schedule. Today was pretty perfect for this particular activity. We'd had enough of a warm-up to get the resin pushing from the buds, but today was extremely cold. The resin was mostly frozen, so tiny helping hands were spared the potentially sticky disaster.

Thus far, I've identified trees of two Populus species here in my little domain. The most common is the Eastern poplar (Populus deltoides), also known as the cottonwood. I've found that it is mostly the terminal buds of the cottonwood that carry the thick, healing resin that I am after. The second, much rarer species is the famed Balm of Gilead (Populus gileadensis), which may actually be a hybrid between the cottonwood and another poplar species. Either way, the buds are highly aromatic (great for incense!) and resinous.

The third bud I harvested brought with it the blessing of the Stag King--two coarse deer hairs frozen fast in the resin. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness.

The littles could only last fifteen minutes or so in the bitter cold, so our collection was much smaller than I'd hoped. As Fate would have it though, we had just the right amount of buds for the amount of olive oil I had at home. Score one for unpreparedness? I love it when things work out like that. Maybe I'll get to go back to the lake by myself this weekend and pick up some olive oil on the way...


  1. Wow, that's so cool! What exactly is it that you do with the resin? And I'm so excited that you get your kids involved in things like this, I think it's wonderful. :)

  2. I put the buds in olive oil, stirring daily for about 6 weeks. Then I strain the plant matter out. The resulting oil is incredibly healing. You can apply it directly to your skin (test for sensitivity first) or add it to wound salves. In addition to be antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it stimulates skin regeneration and soothes pain.