Wild in Petaluma: Foraging Fridays

This week:


Sambucus mexicana or S. cerulea, depending on who you ask. These Blue Elderberries were growing near dehydrated marshland, plus I was a little late to the party, thus…dried and shriveled elderberry raisins. I’m choosing to think they are just that much more concentrated in power.

On Wednesday I packed up myself and my cold, dressed Fern in one of her new shirts sent by the generous and intuitive Nicole, picked up my friend Steph, and headed up to Shollenberger Park to collect a most important ally.


I asked Fern to show me how she felt about her ‘kitty in a pocket’ shirt.


Steph getting her forage on.

I’m sure y’all know about Elderberry and their nearly magical powers as a tonic to ward off colds and flu. If you don’t, I invite you to visit this thorough write up, and I trust you will be fully convinced. Our family took Elderberry syrup as a tonic all last winter, and we were sickness free. It did not escape my attention that just as I was a little bit late in collecting the berries at their peak, I was also tardy in preparing for the seasonal transition into Autumn, and found myself fondly craving this syrup after every nose blow.

It’s still summer in Petaluma, and I could literally feel the moisture in my sinuses receding, as my heart was uplifting. All the cold fog of the city evaporated out of my bones, and the damp grey also cleared out of my mind.

I have been reminded with this bout of sniffles how colds offer the opportunity to clear out sadness that is stuck in the system. From crankiness at the outset, to sensitivity and glumness in the midst, our eyes and nose run, often with the tears of the childlike heart…”I don’t feeeel good….waaaaaaa.” For me there is always a bit of emotional closet cleaning. Forced to slow down and unable to repress negative emotional states, I found myself releasing the unprocessed bits from our trip this summer…the intensity of being in Maine, of becoming engaged, of making giant life choices and then returning to a living situation that has a lot of tension built into it. I could literally feel negative thoughts and feelings on their way out, each time the cold reached a peak of intensity.

It’s little wonder that children come down with colds during the first few weeks of school…yes, it absolutely is because classrooms and contact with multiple children creates a petri dish for disease, but “Back to School” and Fall is a huge emotional transition. Our strain of cold was brought into the family by Leo, who started Kindy last week.


Sea Beans are ready for harvesting again.


This is Steph’s skeptical Sea Bean face

As such, it may come as no surprise to you that Elderberry has not only been proven as a mighty guard against illness, but also has been shown to create a positive emotional state, improving mood. Call it anti-oxidants and vitamins, call it vibrational plant healing…call it what you want, but it don’t matter. Sh*t just works.


I also collected several stalks of Yellow Dock seeds…and you can too, I’m sure you’ve been seeing them in fields and roadsides. I will be making a vinegar with the seeds, as a tonic rich in iron.

Here is the recipe I have frequently used to make my syrup. 5 Orange Potatoes uses one based on Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe and here is Hank Shaw’s recipe for a purely culinary Elderberry Syrup. Finally, here is Susun Weed’s take on the Wise Woman way to prevent depression, and Elderberry is one of the stars.


See? Even just holding a bowl of Elderberries is enough to impart gladness.

A note about collecting and processing Elderberries. It takes about 10 minutes to clip off the clusters of berries, and approximately 8,000 years to pick the berries off the stems. But you must, because the stems are toxic. So sit down with a good netflix, and get busy staining your fingers purple.

Finally, if you haven’t visited Sadie Rose today, I urge you to read her luminescent words and to watch the video too. It might break you open a little, but it will be just enough to let the light and beauty in.


Sneak peek at one of next week’s posts…holy shit I won that giveaway to end all giveaways! That there’s some good medicine too.

Have a good weekend! I’m off to finish that eternal/infernal birthday present!

The Disclaimer

Think with your stomach! Do not ingest wild plants unless you are sure you have identified them correctly and are willing to take responsibility for using yourself as a guinea pig. It is SO not my responsibility if you eat the wrong thing and get poopy pants, or die. You’re an adult. you can make your own choices.

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2 thoughts on “Wild in Petaluma: Foraging Fridays

  1. Ah! This post wouldn’t open the last time I tried to read it – but no matter, it’s here now – and it’s just the info I have been seeking!! Elders grow EVERYWHERE in this part of the world, it’s just that most I spot are by busy roadsides and I don’t really want the pollution to be part of any potion I concoct…That said, there is a huge elder tree in the garden next door to mine, but the house is empty, so I can’t ask permission to forage…. I am seriously considering scaling the fence anyway, before time runs out on the glut of berries!!

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