By Kate Maxey
Fall is upon us and if you are anything like me you have much to do in the garden. I am totally revamping this year, digging things up, moving things around, letting things go. Of the things that I am digging up this year, roots of elecampane, marshmallow, comfrey and valerian are among them. I love digging roots up. Slowly removing the dirt from around the roots, following the roots through the dirt until you find the end then gently pulling so that the roots don’t break.
Once you have them out of the ground you need to give them a good washing. I start with the hose outside to get most of the dirt off, then move into the kitchen to start to break the roots apart to wash between them.
Then you need to process the roots down, which isn’t quite as fun, as any herbalist who has experienced root chopping hand cramps, would tell you, but just as rewarding. A sharp knife or pruners will work depending on how soft or hard the roots are.
So I have decided to honey all of my roots this year and I thought I would share with you my adventure.
Once they are chopped down I throw them into a pot and pour honey over the roots until they are good and covered. You could use either the stove or a crock-pot if you have one, either way you want the lowest temperature possible. Now some people even put the roots in a jar, pour honey over them and then let the jar sit for a month like you would do a tincture. This is good if you want to avoid heating the honey, which at high temps can kill the healthy enzymes it contains.
Next I heat the roots for a couple hours, stirring when I can, then I let them sit over night. The next day I heat off and on until it has been about 24 hours. If you are not at home the next day then it is ok if they just sit and soak in the honey. You will need to heat the honey up before you strain it though. I use a stainless steel strainer that sits over a 32 oz pyrex measuring cup and then once strained I pour the herbal honey into amber jars.
This marshmallow root honey is good for coughs, constipation, ulcers and general dryness throughout the body. Its medicine is in the mucilage and I like to say it has a goobey quality.
You can also make herbal honey with dry roots using this technique or by simply mixing herbal powders straight into honey. There are lots of things you can do with herbal honeys and in my next blog post I will share with you some of my favorite recipes.