Last weekend I taught about seeds and roots, autumn's blessings.
The shorter days and cooler nights change how plants store and use compounds. Instead of a focus on leaves, the focus shifts to roots. Nutrients and medicinal substances go into overwintering roots.
Herbalists follow the energy, waiting for an actual killing frost before digging roots.
Shovels away. Try a spading firm instead. A pitchfork is designed to move dried grass with five long thin tines. A spading fork is designed to move earth, with four broad tines. Spades and shovels are notorious for cutting through roots, while the spading fork loosens the soil without damaging the root.
What roots will you harvest?
What is abundant?
What do you need?
How much will you use?
Will you make tinctures or vinegars?
Since tinctures last for decades, there is no need to dig every root every year. Instead, I make a large amount of tincture of only one or two roots each year, rotating through them so I am always well supplied.
* I make 32 - 64 ounces of poke (Phytolacca americana) root tincture once every 10-15 years. I use it by the drop (1 - 4 drops is a dose), so it lasts a long time if kept cool and dark.
* I make 8 - 16 ounces of teasel (Dipsacus species) root tincture, and the same of Japanese knotweed root, once every 8-10 years. I also use these by the drop (5-15 drops is a dose), and only for specific things.
* I make 16-32 ounces of chicory (Chicorium intybus) root tincture and yellow dock root tincture once every 5-6 years. I would make more if I used them more. Dose is usually a dropperful. Some roast the roots as an addition to, or substitute for, coffee.
* I make dandelion (Taraxacum off.) tincture every 3-4 years. It is one of my Great Remedies and I rely on it for any and all digestive issues. Dose is usually a dropperful. I also make and adore dandelion root vinegar.
* I make as much burdock root (Arctium lappa) vinegar as I can every chance I get. I make 16-32 ounces of tincture every 4-5 years. (Dose is 10-25 drops.)
* I make 4-8 ounces of elecampane (Inula helenium) root tincture every other year. I have only one plant. I use it sparingly (dose is 3-10 drops), but frequently throughout the winter.
* I make at least a quart/32 ounces of echinacea root tincture every year from freshly-dug E. purpurea. I often make 2-3 more quarts a year, using dried E. augustifolia root. If I have a goat who needs it, she can go through an entire quart of tincture while getting well. A dose is 3 or more dropperfuls, frequently.
* I rarely harvest comfrey (Symphytum) root, but after listening to The Comfrey Conference presentations, that is about to change. Comfrey root tincture is on my "to-do" list for late autumn this year. The Comfrey Conference is at wisewomnanschool.com
1 dropperful = 20-25 drops = 1 milliliter
5 dropperfuls = 1 teaspoon
3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon
2 Tablespoons = 1 ounce
8 ounces = 1 cup
16 ounces = 2 cups = 1 pint
32 ounces = 4 cups = 1 quart