On Harvesting The Gracious Herb
In Book XI of the Iliad, Homer provides support for the origin of the Latin name for the common yarrow plant, Achillea millefolium, which was brought to the battlefields of Troy by the hero Achilles:
But save me and take me to your ship;
cut out the arrow from my thigh;
wash the black blood from off it with warm water,
and lay upon it those gracious herbs which,
so they say, have been shown you by Achilles,
who was himself shown them by Chiron,
most righteous of all the centaurs.
One of these “gracious herbs” was most certainly the yarrow plant, which was well-known throughout the ancient world for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, emollient and astringent properties, all of which combined to make it the perfect battlefield companion, simultaneously able to staunch bleeding, kill off bacteria and relive pain. These martial benefits are reflected not only in its Latin name, but also a series of more informal names, including soldier’s woundwort, nosebleed plant, devil’s nettle, staunchweed, sanguinary, and knight’s milfoil.
These same exceptional botanical properties also make yarrow a perfect addition to our Midsummer Rose natural cosmetics, albeit for a less martial, though no less important, set of benefits: moisturizing and toning your skin, as well as reducing the signs of aging. (Incidentally, we have no doubt Helen of Troy also had a bottle of yarrow essential oil on her night table.)
Our Yarrow Flower Powered Products
On Yarrow Harvest Eve
At Frantsila, our flowering yarrow plants begin life as seeds that are sown in the greenhouse, at the end of April, and where they continue to grow until the end of May. We then move the shoots outside in planting pots, in order to make the plants more robust, after which they are planted in the field by mid June. The harvest comes towards the middle of July through August, depending on how quickly the plants flower and develop to peek maturity.
Moreover, the harvesting process involves hand-picking the flower-pods, so as not to damage their botanical properties. Some of our gathers use a knife or scissors to collect the flowers, although the more experienced among them use an entirely manual technique, of snapping the flowers with their fingers. The flowers are then dried and frozen, in order to kill any remaining pests. Finally, the clean, dried flowers are ground and macerated into oil or into an alcohol tincture, depending on the need.
This year, the harvest will begin next week, so stay tuned for more sights and sounds from this very special time at our herb farm.