Dear Avena sativa
This is how I know you~
In cookies, in granola, in bread, as breakfast, as tea, as tincture, as bath, as waving growing grass. I like to eat your groats, steel-cut or rolled. I like to place them in a muslin bag and let you float around in the tub, squeezing out your milk into the bath, soothing my dried-out skin. I like your straw, shiny green in tea blends. I like your milky tops, to squish, lick and tincture. I like your flowering blades to put in bouquets. Actually, I love you.
A member of the Poaceae family, you are simple and old. No flare in your flower, no need. You self-pollinate. Your seed is one of the first to be sown in spring. You make a great cover crop in organic gardening-your growth nourishes the soil while your harvest nourishes our bodies.
I first met you in a round cardboard container, and I thought your name was Quaker. I lathered your porridge with sugar, cinnamon and butter. Now I like to buy your thick rolled oats in bulk and eat them with sauerkraut, butter, sunflower seeds and raisins. You give over a ton of magnesium and so many other needed minerals and vitamins that can help us humans stay strong and well.
There’s a small window when you make seed milk, and we humans hover around, squeezing your tips day after day to catch the moment when it begins. At first, a little watery substance comes out and then, suddenly a few days later, it turns into a thick milk. This milk you make is sweet and full of magic medicine that works directly on our nervous system. You build, repair and strengthen the myelin sheath (the sleeves that protect our nerves) so that we can feel both physical and emotional sensations more deeply and with stability.
My friend Muse recently shared in her newsletter about how in Brazil where she resides, they have an expression, “Eu tô de saco cheio,” which literally translates as “I’m with a full sack.” Meaning ‘I ain’t got no room for this right now.’
Being someone who can quickly be with a full sack, I need a lot of nerve support. How easy it is for something or someone to get on my nerves! But I can honestly feel the difference in how much I can hold in my sack when I am taking your milky oats tincture or drinking your oatstraw tea or eating your groats regularly.
When it was time for my oldest daughter to stop nursing, I cooked your whole groats overnight in extra water then strained the liquid and added some honey and weened Makyziah on homemade oat milk. It made the process easy. Maybe it was just because she was ready or maybe it was your tasty milk or both, but she drank you everyday for a year!
I love to watch my chickens go crazy over your seed. They crowd around your stalks to peck away every single grain. Being in the grass family, you are older than so many of the other plants we use for medicine. Harvesting your aerial parts feels ancient. A sickle can cut many at once, making bunches to gather in sheaves, although Ive never done that. I just harvest a little, enough for my family to have tea the year through. I rely on the big farms to thresh your seed for all the oats we eat for breakfast.
Avena sativa is your botanical name. Beautiful. Avena. Avena is an area in Italy where people must have been really good at growing you because that’s the name that stuck. Sativa is Latin for cultivation. Specifically reserved for plants that are well-used and loved by the people. Chasmanthium latifolium is a similar plant, called Sea Oats and River Oats, basically our wild oats. In your wild form, you got the reputation of being promiscuous, hence the phrase, “sowing our wild oats.” Better to sow our wild oats while young and untethered, and then move into our sativa- our cultivation/relation with you.
Oats, I really appreciate your gifts on so many levels. Thank you for sharing yourself so graciously.