Since I was a kid, I've been examining plants growing along roadsides and in ditches, pulling them apart, smelling them, making things with them, and sometimes tasting them, too. I grew up in a house just a few hundred metres from "the shore", a place where I spent much of my childhood roaming the beach, the wharves, and playing outside. I didn't know until a few years ago how many of them have uses! I'm fortunate enough to be living now just a few kilometres from there, so I'm finding many of the same plants on our property and having such a good time learning about them.
There are so many! The thick-scented yellow flowers growing in the gravel on the shoulder of the causeway is evening primrose, as it turns out, and we also have a large, sweet-scented patch down by the barns which is heavenly on a warm summer evening while closing in the chickens for the night. The juicy, wilty weeds with tiny orange flowers that grew by one of Dad's fishing buildings is jewelweed, an antidote to poison ivy. And the seed pods snap in the coolest way! There are also beach peas (lathyrus japonicus) which I spent hours deconstructing while lying on hot beach rocks. And wild strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries at the very edge of the fields meeting the beach. And rosa rugosa - wild beach roses. Everywhere you look there's something!
Yarrow always seemed kind of common, though, and I never gave it much thought. It has soft, feathery leaves, and shallow roots. It has a tough stem, and is pretty easy to pull up. It has a pleasant, herb-y scent and often grows in dry, gravelly soil, like roadsides. I was delighted to learn a few years ago that the stem, leaves, and flower can be used in a variety of ways; the simplest one which I've used it for in the past is in a tea. It can also be crushed up and applied topically to the skin. You can add it to salads, too, and chickens like it as well. Yarrow oil is also used in the Nature's Gate shampoo that I love. (They just changed the packaging - the old bottle had a prominent image of yarrow on it.) Here's a thorough post about the herb that you might find interesting.
If you have a ragweed allergy, this is not the herb for you! It may cause skin sensitivity in some people. Also, if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, it's best to avoid it. As always, do your research.
For choosing particular plants to harvest, I would avoid ones growing right alongside the road (exhaust fumes, dogs peeing, windshield washer fluid - no thanks!) and choose young-ish, healthy looking plants. Around here, the flowers are mostly white, with the occasional pink one here and there. A friend of mine had some gorgeous deep burgundy and bright yellow in her garden last year, and I think I've seen some in pale yellow growing wild, too.
Oh, I love this time of year. Some of my other wild plant plans for the summer include harvesting rose petals for rose water and rose petal jelly or syrup, rosehips for dehydrating and making teas to combat winter colds. I love these little home tasks that require my hands-on effort from start to finish. There's much to be said for the satisfaction that comes along with that.
We have been enjoying some hot and sunny summer days lately. Friends have been visiting, which makes summer feel like summer, and we have been enjoying homemade popsicles made with fruit juices, and s'mores by the fire. I've been harvesting kale and making my favourite breakfast most mornings, and collecting handfuls of slugs and snails to drown while I'm at it. Also, the chicks are so big now! They're gorgeous, and each has their unique colouring and feather patterns, which makes identifying them easy. More chicks are on their way before long!
Happy summer - I hope that you find a wild edible to enjoy.