Oats – Avena sativa

We absolutely love oats.  We love to start our morning off with porridge in the winter months and make home mixed museli or granola toasted in the oven.  As the weather starts to warm, flapjacks become another favourite treat in our households.

Bowl of oat grains, jars of oat flakes and green oat ears .

There is much good research showing the health benefits of oats as food and also medicine. Oats are an ancient grain, of Mediterranean origin, more nutritious and healthier than lots of the more modern grains. And us herbalists employ this lovely grass to calm frayed nerves and support debilitated conditions, an effective nervine tonic. 

A few years ago we were part of a wonderful workshop at Clophill farm, all about sharing the spirits of agricultural plants with famers, we looked at wheat, barley, corn and oats. During the focus on the oats aka Avena sativa we were taken on a shamanic journey to meet the plant’s spirit, what a journey that was! Both of us got messages from this familiar friend to educate others about where their breakfast food grows and what he looks like….Sow wild oats was a message that came across loud and clear for us. So we set about to do just that and have been spreading the seed and the words ever since.

Have you ever wondered what oats  actually look like as a plant?

Did you know you can you grow oats for food and medicine at home? 

Growing oats at home in your gardens or allotments is really no different than growing grass for a lawn except for you don’t mow down the seed heads; you make medicine or eat them! Oats (Avena sativa), is a domesticated cereal grass of the  family (Poaceae) that are used in a multitude of ways, whether crushed or rolled or ground into flour. Oats are even used for brewing beer in England and in Latin America a cold beverage made from ground oats and milk is popular. 

How to Grow Oats

1.Sow seeds in the spring time once the chance of hard frosts have past.  Sew them outdoors in a sunny area with well-draining soil

2.Broadcast them evenly distributed over a well-tilled area

3. Once the seeds have been spread, lightly rake over the area

4. Cover the seeds with an inch or so of soil, so the birds don’t get to them before they can germinate

5. Once you have sown the oat seed, keep the area moist 

5. Continue to keep well-watered, oats like more moisture 

Harvesting Oats


Green, immature milky oats are ready to harvest when they exude a milky sap if pressed firmly between the fingers.  It is at this stage that the oat plant is packed full of the phytonutrients that are known to be optimum for the nervous system with strong tropho-restorative actions.  The milky seeds can be harvested by running your fingers up both sides of the stem, plucking off the milky seeds as you go. It is important to keep checking your oat plants to get this timing correct, squeezing the seeds to see if they are ready to harvest.  They are delicious to nibble on at this stage too.

Organic green oats (Avena sativa)


We like to harvest the Oatstraw after immature green milky seeds are collected, simply by taking scissors and cutting the stem as close to the ground as possible.  Then we chop the straw into 2cm sections and dry on newspaper in the airing cupboard to store in glass jars for teas and infusions.  

Some of the therapeutic actions from oat medicine include – antidepressant, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, cardiovascular, demulcent, emollient, galactogogue, hypolipidemic, nervine tonic, nutritive, tropho-restorative, vulnerary.This wonderful food and medicine is one of our staple

For more information and herbal hints check out The Sensory Herbal Handbook


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