Summer 2015 | Harvesting Plantain and Amaranth

About Plantain

As I was preparing for the plantain Lab I started to have some flash back of me as a young girl playing in the grass and using plantain leaves as a support and first aid when falling, being bitten by mosquitos or even by bees without knowing anything about its properties. 2015-08-21 16.29.24.jpgPlantain leaves were flat and wide they looked like a band aid to me, so naturally i would pick one when needed and use it like so. I would remember sometimes, when it was painful, using it to rub my skin and sensing a cooling sensation hoping that the itch will go away. And it eventually would.

I was amazed discovering that I already knew the purpose of plantain instinctively just by spending time in the grass and being with my environment.
More I was reading and researching about the plant more my memories were coming to the surface, I was just remembering a knowledge I already had.
I reconnected with this little girl, and felt strongly  inspired to make plantain salve.
I drove my bike to prospect park hoping that I will find a place where plantain will feel safe and welcoming to harvest. I walked for some time, spotting the plant here and there but not feeling a strong call to stop and harvest it. I then arrived close to a small children playground. The energy felt clear, and light, probably because it was inhabited mostly by little people celebrating play and discovery. I sat down for a moment, looking at children playing, mother witnessing…I started to realize that a wide field of fully mature plantain was growing next to the playground. It was amazing to see it, so fresh, trusting and abundant. It was clear that I had arrived to the spot I was looking for.
I crouch down on the grass and started to harvest the leaves i needed to later prepare the 2015-05-16 14.14.31.jpgsalve. What a wonderful moment to connect with the plant and receive the welcoming sensation to harvest it. With each leaf I was harvesting, I was connecting with this endless feeling of generosity. I was seating here and picking freely as much leaves i needed without being asked anything in return.What an extraordinary lesson on the art of giving and receiving. The abundance of the gifts immediately connected me to the awareness of respecting that generosity and only taking what I needed.
The plantain leaf were so big, I could not remember having seen such giant leaves before.

Not too far from me, two little girls were picking dandelion flowers and seedpods. As they were blowing away the seeds they slowly made themselves closer to me intrigued by what I was doing in the field. We talked a little bit, introduced ourselves to each other. I explained them what I was doing and what I knew about plantain. They were really exited and left their dandelion behind to help me harvest the leaves I needed.
We discussed about harvesting only what we needed and so they will sometimes come and check with me if I needed more before continuing harvesting.

Photo.jpgBack home, I started to prepare the salve, I also used some calendula flowers I had kept dried in my closet, celebrating the beautiful marriage of fresh green and vibrant orange. I poured olive oil on the mix and sealed it in glass jars to let it seat for a few weeks.

I gave some of the salves i made to my friends, and later on we gave some of them to the people who attended the Lab. It was interesting to witness some of the people’s reaction. One person immediately felt inspired by the amount of money I could make selling the salve. She told me i had found a golden mine. Other were surprised I would give them for free mentioning that they had seen salve alike in health store for a decent amount of money. Other people were just extremely grateful.

How do I define the value of this Salve?

The main ingredient is made of plantain which i harvested freely in the park.
Other ingredients include:
The organic olive oil $12 (Bottle) / 32 ( number of salves i made) = 0.30 cents
The bee wax $25 (bulk package) / 32 = 0.78 cents
3 drops of organic essential oil. Not sure how many drops there is in a bottle that costed me $12

My time spent
– doing research so basically learning,
– harvesting so basically being outdoor in the park enjoying the weather and plants
– waiting for the decoction to mature so basically doing nothing.

What price would you put on that? How much $$$ would i deserve for the time i spent connecting, learning, waiting? What is the value of my time spent to connect with another living being just to know it better?
Does that has a value? Do I need to share the $$$ with plantain ? How much would you charge me to spend time with you and get to know you better?
Does the plantain needs to be paid for growing on the land and be harvested?

As to ask for a price I really feel confused now.
What would be your price?




There are a few locations in Redhook Brooklyn where Amaranth grows into their full potential, deep purple or green and up to 3-4 feet tall. I always admire their color; and enjoy watching how the flowers bow slowly toward the earth more and more as they fill up with seeds and become heavier. Amazing that one Amaranth plant can hold up to 60,000 seeds per year! What a serious capacity to withhold tremendous weight!

I am very attracted to the hue and texture of the deep purple-velvet flowers. They are fluffy and radiant. What I really want to do is give it a nice squeeze! Yet, as I approach the tall, and impressive plant on Pioneer Street, the touch of these big heads that are gorged with seeds, is rather spiky! The plant feels like a big mama, who is protecting her seeds from my hand. I’m curious if the plant will let me take a few of her flowers.

The process of harvesting the seed is very enjoyable for me, like a dance, a ritualistic act, a light kiss, a shaking song.

I first squeeze and crush the flowers in my hands. Then I separate the shaft from the seeds. Next, I take a deep breath and blow the mix of shaft and seed. The heavy seeds stay in the bottom of my palm while the light shafts fly away. This gesture is such a strong image. Ever since, I have wanted to make a dance out of this process.

Amaranth is extremely powerful plant. It is an ancient grain used as a staple food by South American native ancestors. Nowadays, Amaranth is being called a “super weed,” likened to the super food trend of America. Amaranth is finding its way back to the fields of industry, and also in the fields and abandoned, neglected urban sites where roundup is sprayed. The plant has genetically transformed and adapted to this harsh pesticide. She is fierce; evolving to claim back her space and her very own home, her wilderness.

I am endlessly humbled to learn and witness nature’s power and survival instincts such as this. Amaranth is a leader in what some people refers to as an inspiring, natures’ movement, “Weed resistance”.



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