The last Sunday in January we harvested cottonwood buds. I love how cottonwood buds have this mid-winter harvest time. It's nice to have something as intoxicating and important as cottonwood to look forward to in the winter.
Cottonwood trees (also known as : Black Cottonwood, Balm of Gilead, Populus trichocarpa) can be found near the banks of rivers and streams. We found ours on the banks of the Clackamas River.
Buds appear on cottonwood trees from late winter to early spring. You can smell the fragrance in the air, it resembles the sweet notes of honeysuckle. Just before they open, the leaf buds will expel a drop of red to yellow colored resin. When you pinch the buds and see resin inside, it is the perfect time to harvest. The cottonwood buds that we found were varied - some were fat & ready while others will still on the smaller side. For the most part, the juiciest buds are up very high so be sure to look around on the ground for branches that may have been knocked down in the wind.
To break off the buds, you just bend them a bit with your fingertips until they snap off. They are sticky with resin so be sure to line your collecting basket with a bag of some sort.
Many parts of the cottonwood tree are medicinal. A compound called salacin, which is found in the leaves, buds and bark of cottonwood, has been proven to lower fevers and reduce inflammation and pain.
Next up... how we make cottonwood bud oil & then use that in our Healing Balm!
xo - Casey