Backyard Apothecary: What Is Ripe Right Now

Out in the garden, the chickweed bed is dry and yellow, but the dandelions that sprouted after May’s flowers are growing vigorously. Their leaves are dark green, gathering enough energy from the sun to grow long roots for winter. Elsewhere in the garden, red clover (actually a light, bright purple) is blooming, yellow dock is red with seed, and my daughter brought a yellow maple leaf to me yesterday. Constant change, but a constant revolution of patterns within patterns. Everything in its time.

When wildcrafting, that is, picking wild foods and medicines, I pay close attention to where the energy of a plant is focused. At this time of year, fruits or seeds are usually where it’s at. Later on, as seeds dry and leaves wither, it will move to the roots. Wherever it is, that’s what should be harvested. Fresh chickweed in my salad is a distant memory after July’s heat, but I made chickweed tincture to take whenever I feel something thick that needs dissolving, physically and emotionally. Lately I have been picking the nourishing, mineral rich and hormone balancing red clover blossoms for tea. In the days and months to come, I will harvest yellow dock seeds for an iron-rich tea, plantain seeds to add wild vitamins to porridge, dandelion leaves for salads and then later their roots for winter teas and tincture to nourish the digestive system, among other things. 

This cycle of taking everything in its time is clearly relevant to other aspects of life. Opportunities present themselves to us when we, and they, are ready. But knowing when an idea, or ourself, is ripe, can be complicated. Yet the signs are the same. Does a gentle exploration of the idea yield movement? 

This winter I had a potential opportunity, or so I thought. This was an idea I’d had for a long time, something I’d always thought I would really enjoy. The opportunity to act on this idea kept being presented in ways that were not acceptable in some way to me. The opportunity was presented and retracted numerous times over the year, but never quite in a way that allowed me to accept it. My mind went back and forth to explore and then give up on how I could make the idea work until I was exhausted. Gradually the idea, the potential opportunity, started to feel like a dysfunctional relationship. I couldn’t pursue or even consider it any longer. If it was meant to be, it would pursue me. And it didn’t. Shortly afterward, another opportunity came along quickly and effortlessly. And so my life moved along the new path. I can’t help but wonder why an idea that was so beautiful to me, so full of potential, had to be presented in so complicated a way. But it was. Perhaps it will ripen later, but I am done prodding that fruit. 

The experience has given me a renewed desire to take advantage of what is ripe right now, and a better understanding of when to leave what is not yet ripe alone.

Rose Dickson is an artist and writer with a passion for natural health. A self-taught herbalist who specializes in local, urban wild-crafting and do-it-yourself medicine, she has most recently begun researching quantum physics and how it relates to health. She can be reached at