Saturday, February 4, 2012

Elecampane Harvest

A few weeks ago I woke up after a long night of coughing looking for elecampane tincture only to find the bottle as well as it’s mother jar empty.
Without stopping to grab a cup of tea, I walked outside in the rain with my slippers on and dug through the bare garden bed for clues to where elecampane is. I spy little red tops and feel around in the dirt to estimate the size of the root, then plunge the shovel in just once to loosen the deep soil. There are many shoots that radiate off of the main shoot so you have to be careful to not cut them with the shovel.
I am crouched, still coughing, asking the plants: "who wants to help me?" There are three big roots. I dig around in the cold dirt with my bare hands and am able to get all of the many fingered roots until I pull out an enormous root that looks like an ancient sea creature.
I hose it off, bring it inside and begin deciding how much I can use, how much I need and which parts I will replant again.
With my best knife I begin cutting off the roots, lining them up and slicing them like carrots into little rounds.
I throw some ugly pieces into a pot of water with fresh ginger so I can have tea as soon as possible.
Some of the roots go into a jar with diluted organic ethanol for a tincture that will have a ten plus year shelf life. Some of the roots go into another jar that I cover with hot honey, which will be an amazing liver and lung tonic when added to tea. The remainder I fill a parchment lined cookie sheet with to let dry.
The tea is ready, my cough is subsiding and it’s time to re-plant the parts of the root that will re-grow new medicine this year and next. I say blessings and give thanks.
It’s taken a couple of hours, but now there is a specific kind of medicine for coughs, lung ailments and grief. A bitter tonic for digestion as well as a grounding, focusing energy that is calming without making you sleepy.
The photo below is the hollowed out place where I harvested from a couple of years ago, the pink shoots are the newest growth. I re-planted nearly all of the pink shoots.
They will likely flower this summer.