top of page

Natural Cycles

I love the idea that nature comes in cycles. I didn't use to notice these, but during Covid I found one spot in the woods where I would always go and sit, and since then I've been returning to that spot regularly, marking the seasonal changes, noticing as things shift and creep from season to season.

I've now lived in Glasgow for the longest time I've lived in any place as an adult, and I relish the seasonal shifts. I love the beginning of the changes - early spring, and the gold of autumn, but I've learned to love all of the seasons and the way that nature shifts within them.

There are some key species which I love to watch, and serve as key markers for me in this seasonal shift.

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic was my first love, the first plant I really learnt to identify, use, and cherish as my own (read more about my wild garlic obsession here). It starts in early January, with me clawing my fingers through the leaf mould, looking for the tiny shoots poking up. I love how some of them pierce through the delicate leaves, growing straight up through their disintegrating frames. I pull up one or two, not wanting to over-pick at this young stage, although the woods have more than enough to go around. In Judaism we have a special prayer for the marking of time, recited on many occassions, but especially on eating a fruit you're eating for the first time that season:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽינוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה

Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Ha'Olam, SheHechianu Ve'Kiyemanu Ve'Higianu Lazman HaZeh

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who has given us life, sustained us and allowed us to arrive in this moment.

I whisper it into the crisp winter air as I breathe in the delectable garlic smell I've been craving all year, before beginning the next blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Ha'Olam, Borei Pri Ha'Adama

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the ground

And with that I put it in my mouth and savour that magic, that intense garlicky flavour it only holds when all the flavour is compacted into a tiny little shoot.

And then I watch it grow. Soon the shoots become tiny leaves, still fresh and delicate, and full of flavour, as they begin to expand and fill in the woodland floor.

In no time at all, the woodland floor is absolutely covered in it. The leaves grow wide, and I wander through the woods, wonder at the sheer abundance of it all.

It's at this time that I collect it. From late-March to early-May I come home with massive bags of it, pulverizing it into a paste that I save up all year long, mixing it into eggs or pasta.

Or my absolute favourite, Shabbat with wild garlic challah!

But all too soon, it begins to flower. The flowers are edible, and the buds make a great pickle, but by this point the leaves are getting a bit tough and bland.

By June, the woodland is a remnant. Scant leaves lie deflated on the ground, slowly turning back in to leaf mulch, while the seeds, scattered by the blooming flowers, prepare to settle in to the soil and prepare for next year's sprouts.


Bracken (or ferns, as we know it in Canada) is another one which absolutely covered the Scottish landscape, but looks so different in every season, that watching it makes me feel so connected to the season at hand. It doesn't grow near me in the city, so it's always on days out when I notice it, filling in a moor or glen, and I'm always delighted to see what stage it's at. It starts with scant branches, slowly unravelling themselves out of the ground, anywhere from early April to late May.

Soon the fronds are fully grown, strong and abundant.

They fill entire areas of hillside with dense (and tick-filled) foliage, chest-high in some areas, and so thick it's difficult to move through.

The underside of each frond is lined with small seeds, which fall down with the leaves and propagate new bracken for next year.

Then all of a sudden, it's autumn and the bracken is crisps and copper. This is one of my favourite times of the year, when everything is shifting and the bracken is a sharp pop of colour against the moody Highland skies.

At first the fronds are quite substantive in their golden state, but eventually they wither. The stems collapse down on themselves, disintegrate and become part of the hillside again, until the new fronds begin to pop up again in mid-late spring.

While not edible, bracken has long been used for a variety of craft uses. It has been used at roof thatching (although it's not the best for this), and I've experimented with using it as a dye source.

Rosebay Willowherb

Rosebay Willowherb, or Fireweed as it's also known, is one of my absolute favourites! It grows in abundance nearly everywhere, from the wasteland near my house to beautiful Highland glens. In mid-spring, it's succulent green buds popping up are a tasty snack, and an enticing reminder of what's to come, while in late summer it lends a beautiful pink to the hillsides. The earliest buds begin poking up around mid-March. At ths point, they make an excellent vegetable, fried up like asparagus, or using the leaves like spinach.

By mid-June the leaves are beginning to harden, and they're no longer so great for eating directly, but the leaves are incredible to ferment and dry into a delicious tea called Ivan Chai.

I seriously make buckets of this every year and drink so much of it. It makes me feel calm, restored and amazing, and is absolutely free. So many people walk by this all the time (because it's everywhere) and don't realize what an incredible resource it is. (Read about my Rosebay Willowherb education project Local Tea Shop here).

When the stalks are nice and long, it's also a great time to cut them, strip them into fibre, and twist them into cordage. I love that in addition to the plant being beautiful, there are so many ways to use it.

And of course, if I can find it, I have to try and dye with it. This one is on my handspun yarn as well. Around late June they start to flower. They grow long, round seed pods, with hot pink flowers at the end.

Mid-late summer, these flowers erupt all across the hillsides and cities alike, and it is truly incredible. In late summer, the seed pods erupt into white fluff, similiar to dandelions, and blow in the wind, ready to propagate for next year.


Recent Posts
bottom of page