Tall plants with fern-like leaves and a powerful, sweet aroma. At Soul Fire Farm, we grew this plant as a more adaptable cousin in our climate to Artemisia afra (the African wormwood also featured in Farming While Black) and also because in recent years we have heard of its tremendous power in self-determination and healing throughout Africa. In East, West, and South Africa people (including young people in school gardens) are growing it in an effort to reclaim some agency from the pharmaceutical companies that produce anti-malaria drugs.
However, after much more reading on this subject it seems the stories are far more complicated, as they always are. In some cases, home use of Artemisia annua is replacing needed medical care, and in other cases, it is being grown by large companies (under possibly problematic labor conditions) as a mono crop/cash crop for Artemisinin Combination-Based therapy that many people cannot afford. For this and other medicine plants, we have heard "the problems of the humans are not the problems of the plant" and we grow and share this plant and seed as a way to talk about both its uses towards self-determination, as well as the inadequacies of the pharmaceutical industrial complex.
While this species has naturalized in North America, it is originally from China where it is called qinghao and used medicinally to treat fever and malaria. Also known as sweet wormwood, sweet annie, sweet sagewort, annual mugwort, and annual wormwood.
Days to maturity: 190-240
Seeds per pack: 325
Planting / harvesting notes
Start indoors 6-8 weeks before frost and pot-up as needed. Whether starting indoors or outside (after frost), sow on surface of soil, barely cover, and keep moist until germination, which takes 1-2 weeks. While this plant is an annual, it self sows very easily and will return year after year.
Seed keeping notes
Allow seedheads to dry on the plant. Cut the stalks below the lowest seed clusters. If necessary, dry the seedheads further in the sun on a sheet or table away from moisture and precipitation. When fully dry, whack the seedheads in a bucket, allowing the ripest seed to fall. Sift through strainers to remove the largest chaff, and then winnow off the lighter chaff with your breath, a fan, or the wind.
Photo by Jessica Ferguson, who makes Sweet Annie wreaths for their aroma and as good omens and protection.