June is my favorite month. Well ok, I say that about every month... But June is at least up there in my top three.
Here in the northeastern U.S., the flowers are blooming, the trees are full and lush, and the air has a subtle sweetness that is completely unique to these days of early summer.
This is the time when everything reaches its peak, the exact right moment to be picked, and so now is when I do the most harvesting (and when my herb drying racks become a complicated, real-life game of Tetris...).
Honestly, there are SO many wonderful wild things to harvest this month, it's hard to narrow it down...
But here are my favorites, the ones I try to never miss. All of these are common, simple to identify and harvest, and easy to enjoy.
As always, make sure to do your own research on the plants. And of course, always be 110% sure that you've correctly identified a plant you intend to harvest from the wild. (If you're new to wildcrafting, I've got a post here about things to know before you get started.)
Mulberry (Morus spp.)
If you have a mulberry tree nearby, you've hit the delicious wild fruit jackpot.
A deciduous tree reaching from 30 to 80 feet tall (depending on subspecies...), mulberries are widespread across the U.S. The leaves are very unique, making it easy to identify. The berries sort of resemble elongated blackberries, darkening to almost black when ripe, and have a slightly tart, mellow flavor.
Depending on its size, just one tree can produce baskets of fruit, and it's often easy to harvest several cupfuls in one outing.
To harvest the berries, simply reach up as far as you can and pick them right off the tree (if you have a picking partner to carefully bend the branches down so you can reach them, that's ideal). The berries are very delicate and squishable, so I suggest putting them directly into a mason jar or other hard-sided container to avoid crushing them and getting juice everywhere. (Fun anecdote; I once found a mulberry tree laden with fruit and had nothing on me but a brown paper bag. I accepted the challenge, but that was a pretty high-stress harvest.)
After you've picked the berries, try to use them as soon as you can, as they don't keep particularly well. If you can't use them right away, I suggest storing them in the freezer.
To enjoy mulberries, you can eat them right from the tree, bake them into pies, cakes and scones, turn them into jam, or use them as a topping on ice cream. So really, anything you would do with berries!
Have you ever noticed the tiny, bright green tips that appear on the branches of evergreen trees in the spring? These are delicate sprigs of new growth. Because they are so tender and flavorful, they make a nice edible; the tips of firs, spruces and pines are all delicious, with a light citrus flavor.
To harvest some, simply pluck them right off the tree (take only a small amount from each tree, as taking too much is essentially stunting its growth).
The tips can be used fresh to make a syrup, added into baked goods, added to pesto, tossed into salad, chopped finely and added to sauces and dressings, infused in vodka and used in mixed drinks, or dried for later use as a delicious tea. Have some fun and experiment with ways to cook them up!
**Important side note: be very sure that you are not harvesting Yew (Taxus spp.), which is a toxic evergreen.**
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Beautiful, delicate chickweed is a delicious, juicy, cooling, and moistening plant. Low-growing with tiny white star-shaped flowers, chickweed is abundant in most areas and thrives in the cool weather of spring and early summer.
I always hear people say to look for chickweed in the shade, but some of the biggest, healthiest patches I've ever seen have been right in the middle of a meadow, in full strong sun, in August! So, keep an eye out wherever you are!
Traditionally, chickweed has been used topically to soothe and moisten the skin, internally to help clear the lymphatic system, and both internally and externally to help dissolve cysts and swellings. Eating a nice big handful of fresh greens is a great way to reap her benefits.
To harvest, just snip the tops - think of it like giving the chickweed a trim. Harvesting like this encourages growths, and the chickweed will continue to thrive.
To use, you can eat chickweed fresh as a green on its own, added to salads, or as an addition to pestos. You can also make a delicious, cooling summer drink by throwing a big handful into a quart mason jar, filling it up with boiling water, then letting it infuse overnight before straining and drinking the infusion over ice.
Linden (Tilia spp.)
Ok friends, this is really one of my favorites. I could go on about my love of linden forever. But I'll spare you. Mostly.
Also commonly called basswood or lime tree, linden is deciduous and produces little clusters of creamy white deliciously scented flowers in early summer.
Linden opens up circulation around the heart, helping it to beat easier. It has a very cooling, deeply calming effect, and can be wonderful to drink right before bed. I really recommend it for people who tend to start overthinking and get an anxious feeling while trying to fall asleep. It brings a sense of peace and well being...it's like drinking a glass of sweet silver moonlight...
...or like if the goddess of the moon reached down and brushed her glowing fingers through your hair and told you that life is easier than you think...
(I said I wouldn't get carried away, so I'll limit my flowery descriptions of linden...)
The flowers and the delicate oblong bracts they spring from are what you want to collect and use. To harvest them, carefully pluck them right from tree and toss them into your basket.
The best way to enjoy linden is as a long-steeped infusion. Add one cup of fresh flowers and bracts to a quart sized mason jar, cover with boiling water, and let infuse overnight (or around 8 hours). You can warm up the infusion and drink it hot, but my favorite way to drink it is over ice.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover is a beautiful wildflower that grows abundantly in sunny meadows, but tolerates a little shade as well. It makes a lovely groundcover; I can't think of a better replacement for a boring grass lawn! Humans, wildlife, and bees can all benefit greatly from a healthy crop of red clover growing nearby.
Slightly astringent with a mildly vanilla-like flavor, red clover blossoms make a nice trail snack - you can pop them fresh from the field and enjoy them on the spot. They're also nice added to salads. A long steeped infusion of the fresh or dried flowers is incredibly delicious and refreshing when drunk over ice (follow the same steps as for the linden and chickweed infusions, above). Red clover is beloved by herbalists and used traditionally for it's many beneficial effects: hormone balancing, digestive aid, mineral and amino acid rich supplement, female reproductive system tonic, lymphatic cleanser, skin clarifier...it's a multi-talented herb, for sure!
Where I live, early June is the perfect time to gather clover. There is one particular field I really love, where the red clover blooms in a thick carpet beneath the cedar trees. Some of my happiest summer memories are of standing in the stillness under blue summer skies, picking those beautiful flowers.
To harvest, just snip off the flowers and upper few leaves. They are best stored in a mesh bag or basket (something breathable) if it will be a while before you can take them home and set them out to dry, as they tend to mold easily. Spread them out to dry carefully, allowing a little space between the flowers. A drying screen is ideal. If you notice any white fuzzy stuff growing on your drying clover, discard them - this is a mold that commonly forms on clover. It's a total bummer, but it can make you sick if ingested.
Wild rose (Rosa multiflora)
There are many kinds of wild rose, all of which are absolutely lovely, but I prefer to work with scrappy, invasive Multiflora rose. Because this rose is considered a pest, taking over meadows, hedgerows and roadsides, I feel perfectly fine about gathering large amounts of her creamy white flowers.
Unlike other wild roses, which have a cooling effect, I find Multiflora to be slightly warming. A tea of the flowers has a gentle, calming, heart opening effect. Which makes sense, as rose is a mildly astringent tonic for the heart, helping to strengthen it over time.
If you plan to go out hunting wild roses, it's a good idea to wear long sleeves, and maybe even bring gloves if you're worried about getting scratched by thorns. To harvest, just use a sharp pair of shears to snip off the flowers and a few leaves.
There are many way to enjoy wild rose. My favorite thing to do is make a fresh flower glycerite and a honeyed elixir (you can read about how to make these in this blog post I wrote last year all about multiflora here). A tea of the fresh or dried flowers is delicious, too.
Happy summer, and happy foraging!
All information herein is strictly for educational purposes and has not been verified by the FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Always do your own research before trying new herbs or wild plants.