Monday, May 5, 2014

The seasonal gauntlet

The latest Marshmallow.
The thing about being an herbalist that is focused on bioregional cultivation and wildcrafting (that's a fancy way of saying using herbs that grow here, either through cultivation or in the wild) is that you have to be quick on your feet. When nature gives you a boon of a useful plant (hint, almost all of them are useful!) you need to be able to process them quickly so as not to lose your precious medicine. Case in point: in the last week, I was given 5 pound of Nettles, 20 pounds of Marshmallow root, 7 pounds of Violets, 12 pounds of Burdock root, 1 pound of Red Raspberry leaf, 1 pound of Comfrey leaf, 3 pounds of Dandelion root, and 8 pounds of Dandelion greens. These are all fresh, not dried and already processed. What's a one woman operation to do?

I got some glycerin, oil, and alcohol; fired up the dehydrators and started to WORK!

First, the Nettles. That was easy- we are in the throes of allergy season here in Ohio, and Nettles make up the base of my allergy tea. So I dried out the Nettles, lickety split and made a LOT of Allergy Tea. I am sampling it at each farmer's market and it is selling like hotcakes (because it is tasty and sorely needed).

Quite a bit of processed
bits in the steeping window.
Next, the Dandelion and Burdock root. I cleaned and chopped the roots and added them to local Hops, Gentian, Cardamom, Orange peel, and Cinnamon bark. (Anyone know what that blend, extracted in alcohol, is? Bitters!) I have been wanting to make another batch of bitters since opening the store, and my local boon has allowed me to get started on that project. It will be a regularly stocked item once this batch is ready.

I dried the Red Raspberry, Comfrey, and Dandelion greens. The Dandelion has already been used in tea blends, the Comfrey will wait and be steeped in oil with Comfrey root to make a salve and lotion base. The Red Raspberry has been made into Moontime Tea.

The Marshmallow. Oh the humanity- so much Marshmallow. I got this in two batches and thought myself "on top of it" when I processed the first three roots (about 4 pounds). I had just gotten my big cleaver sharpened, thank goodness. I got a blister on my pointer from processing the root, but managed to get it cut and dried out. It is now in the bulk bins, and will be made into tea or bought by the public. But the following week, the same farm brought in another 17 pounds. I had to buy it- I won't have to buy marshmallow again for quite some time, assuming that I process it quickly. So I begin today chopping even more. I may steep some in oil (for a facial serum), and then dry the rest for a season of teas.

And Violets. Such a delicate and seasonal offering! I had to take advantage of the opportunity or lose out on Violets for a whole year. So I tinctured some in glycerin, steeped some in oil, and and drying the rest.
Digestive Bitters

Chili, Arnica, and Turmeric Oil

Nasturtium and Violet Vinegar

Violet in glycerine.

Calendula oil.

Feverfew tincture

Plantain oil.

Violet oil.

Violets to dry out.

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