|Geese back in Anchorage|
One of my favorites is cottonwood buds to make a cottonwood bud salve that's just as good as commercial aspirin containing topical creams but smells a lot better for my arthritis.
Black Cottonwood grows literally like a weed in the Anchorage area. During what my family refers to as "tree sex" season, the fluffy seeds are everywhere, almost like snow in the middle of summer. Really sticky snow that is hard to get out of carpets and drives my housekeeper husband completely nuts on the job. (He recommends alcohol to dissolve the sticky. And patience. And putting up a lot of signs for people to wipe their feet)
But in spring, the branches are covered with buds that will become leaves, and those buds have a fair amount of salicylates in the resin. If you can't identify cottonwood, mature trees have a thick, gnarled, grey-ish brown or grey bark and buds smell medicinal- like camphor. The buds will also leave a reddish-brown resin on your fingers when you roll them between your fingers. When you wild harvest anything- my family goes with a strict 1 in 3 method with everything except willow. So we pick one out of 3 buds on a tree and never the ones at the tips of a branch.
This is widely considered the tree to make Balm of Gilead from, and my ancestors used it as a medicine by dissolving the resin in animals fats.
Well, I'm not going to use rendered tallow or lard for my balm. Fortunately, while half of my ancestors probably had no idea that olives even existed, I can go to the grocery store and pick up olive oil.
Generally you want about 2 parts oil to one part cottonwood buds. My family picks from trees in our neighborhood and goes to state parks- our state parks allow reasonable harvesting for personal use as long as you harvest responsibly and it makes a nice hike.
So you put the oil into a jar with the cottonwood buds then top with a coffee filter or a piece of clean fabric. The reason you use the permeable top is because there is some water in the cottonwood buds and you want that to evaporate. Stir daily until the buds sink. Then leave sit for 1-2 months. That's where I'm at now-
Cottonwood oil is considered liquid gold by the people who use it.
After another month, I'll strain the oil, pressing to get as much oil as possible, and then I'll add 2 tablespoons of grated beeswax/cup of oil to make a balm and melt it gently over a double boiler then pour into some of my husband's old pomade tins and mark them clearly.
It might be too late to pick cottonwood in your area, but there are people on Etsy who sell buds and completed oil, and there is a possibility that next year TG and William may be among those sellers.
This year, this is all for me. :)