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Harvest and Preservation of Milky Oats

Harvest And Preservation Of Milky Oats

Why Harvest Milky Oats?

Milky Oats (Avena sativa) is a popular herb for soothing the nervous system. Oats are cheap and easy to grow in many climates but proper collection starts with good timing. Once the oats have reached their “milky stage”, the forager has to act quickly or the latex will be absorbed into the plant to help the seed head mature. This plant doubles as a nitrogen catching ground cover for gardeners who wish to fortify their fallow ground.

Oat straw, oat bran and oatmeal all possess medicinal qualities in their own rights but as a nervine, milky oats are hard to beat. Milky oats have a high mineral and protein content which is savored in nutritive teas. The anti-depressive alkaloids that have gathered the most attention are trigonelline and avenine. As with many alkaloids, they are not very water soluble so preserving the oats in an alcohol-based tincture is the best way to extract these properties.

Equipment needed

  1. Bucket or bag
  2. Gloves (optional)
  3. Sun Protection

Harvesting and Preserving Procedure

  1. Inspect the oats by pinching the oat seed between 2 fingers to confirm that the latex (milk) exudes freely.
  2. Put on gloves to prevent grass from injuring fingertips.
  3. Grab a small amount of oats from the middle of the stalk just below section that the seed heads form.
  4. Run your hand briskly up the top of the oat stalks while pressing firmly on the stalk with your thumb and forefinger so the oat seed heads fall into your hand.
  5. Drop milky oat seed heads into your bucket or collection bag.
  6. Once you have harvested enough milky oats, you may process them. Select your processing method.
  7. Turning oats into a tincture is simple using our procedure available in this link. Stick to the 1:2 ratio and keep your alcohol content high as oats are very moist. Use 75% alcohol to preserve as many minerals are you can or 95% alcohol to preserve as many of the anti-depressive alkaloids as you can.
  8. Milky oats are very easy to dry in a food dryer or spread on a cookie sheet in low temperature oven for a few hours. (check regularly to avoid burning)
  9. Be sure to store the tincture and the dried oats in a secured, labeled container far away from sunlight. The flavonoids in oats are susceptible to fading in light.
Thanks to Lovelight Herb Farm for sharing the harvest!

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.


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