There is no better initiation into the therapeutic world of herbs than morning walks in spring or summer, when fields and hedgerows are everyone’s herbal dispensary, open all hours. The sheer enjoyment of being in their midst and gathering leaves and blossoms, roots and barks for healing, can never be exaggerated. Always pick herbs away from roadsides or cultivated land that may have been sprayed, and gather them at their most vigorous.
Be careful not to over pick the same area, or gather from places where the plant is scarce, and avoid any plant that looks stunted or diseased. Be gentle in your handling of fresh herbs – do not bruise or crush them, or hold them for too long. Collecting, drying, and storing in spring and summer, for most herbs in spring and summer leaves are at their best just before flowering, and flowers are at their best just as they are bursting into bloom. Bark should be harvested in spring as the sap rises, while roots and rhizomes should be left until fall/autumn.
Collect leaves and flowers on a dry, sunny day in the morning, once the dew has dried, as dampness will cause them to deteriorate-quickly. Bark, roots, and rhizomes are easier to pull after rain. Collecting, drying, and storing, as soon as you get home spread the plants out to dry in a single layer or hang them in small bunches. Choose a warm, airy, well-ventilated place in the shade, such as an attic or shed. Wash and cut roots and rhizomes only and then dry them. Turn the herbs frequently over the next few days, and when dry, break them up into small pieces. Drying times vary depending on the plant and the part you intend to use. Generally, leaves should be brittle and break easily.
Stems and stalks should break and not bend. Flower petals should rustle but not crumble. Bark and roots should be dry enough to snap, or if they are thick, to chip with a »mall hammer. Dried herbs should look, taste and smell like the fresh plant, but be about one-eighth the weight. Store the herbs in a dark, Store the herbs in a dark, dry place, in brown paper bags, cardboard boxes or dark glass jars with cork stoppers – never in plastic because it encourages condensation inside the container. Label the containers carefully. Aerial parts will keep for about a year; roots and bark for two.