Kȟaŋta. Prunus Americana. Wild Plum. While this shrub is most famous for its small but delicious fruits, the spring is a good time to harvest the stem tips, which are another kind of medicine, You can make a tea from the twig tips that treats asthma or other breathing difficulties.
This is what the tips look like in April:
Identifying plants in the winter, when they don’t have foliage, can be challenging. One way to identify kȟáŋta this time of year, before it gets its leaves, is by its distinct thorns. They are nothing like the sharp, long thorns of the Hawthorn tree, but you definitely don’t want to stab yourself. If you’re not sure, get to know a kȟáŋta plant during the summer and then come back to it the following spring.
This one, which I harvested from, was chewed by a porcupine or some other kind of hungry animal over the winter, but it was still in good enough shape to harvest a few twigs:
That day, with a friend, I actually harvested the ingredients for several different spring teas. Some made use of plants that had been drying/ripening over the course of the winter:
-Last year’s sage (Pȟežíȟota, Artemisia ludoviciana): still strong enough to make a good tea.
-Uŋžiŋžiŋtka (Rosa Woodsii, Wild Rose Hips): They actually get sweeter after spending winter on the bush.
And the other two focused on fresh ingredients:
-Igmú čheyáka (Nepeta cataria, Catmint): The first fresh shoots emerging this time of year.
-Kȟáŋta twigs, of course.
To make the kȟáŋta waȟpékȟalyapi (wild plum twig tea), put about 1-2 tablespoons per 2 cups of water in a pot, and let it boil about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature, remove the twigs, then serve. For breathing difficulties, this should provide fairly quick relief.