Build a Fall Garden Medicine Chest

Harvest and preserve these six multipurpose plants now for maximum wintertime health.

| September/October 2015

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Fall has come, and with it the time for us to put away our tools, slow down and prepare for a long winter’s rest. Many of us need this physical reminder. Between work, errands, school activities and more, it can be all too easy to attempt to continue operating at full steam during this change of seasons, but this is the time of year when our bodies need to restore themselves.

Recipes for Winter Health

Pickled Garlic Cloves Recipe
Pickled Sunchokes Recipe

Mirroring our own turn inward, perennials and biennials return their energy to their roots in the fall. This is why many winter medicines are made from plant roots. As we approach the year’s end for harvesting food and medicinal plants, this is the ideal time to turn to preservation. Many of us preserve food, but it’s just as beneficial to stock our medicine chest with homegrown items—many medicinal plants can be “put up” in the same way as vegetables. We are merely freezing, canning and drying a complement to our winter food supply.

Some wild roots, such as sunchoke, can be dug even in winter as long as the ground hasn’t frozen too hard. If you wish to harvest roots throughout winter, before the snow falls, it’s important to walk the land to locate and mark them for a later harvest. Mother Nature doesn’t plant in rows like we do, so I use a brightly colored row marker labeled with the plant name. If you try this, make sure your marker is tall enough to show above a snowfall.

6 Medicinal Herbs to Gather Now

1. Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic is an important antimicrobial to have on hand. It’s one of our modern day panaceas, with possible medicinal uses ranging from reducing cholesterol and slowing down atherosclerosis to strengthening the immune system and fighting cancer. It’s wise to consume garlic regularly as a way to maintain general wellness, especially as winter illnesses make the rounds. Garlic is also a great treatment to help kick out viruses at the onset, either by consuming large amounts in raw form as food or by making your own capsules or tinctures. The constituent allicin is responsible for the antimicrobial aspect and must be used freshly crushed. Some research has found that the DNA protective effects of garlic are less damaged by heat if the garlic is chopped or crushed then allowed to stand for 10 minutes before cooking. If you’re using garlic for circulatory or reproductive health, there are no usage time frame limitations. Garlic is easy to grow almost anywhere in the country. Dig bulbs when there are just five green leaves remaining on the stalk.

Notes on preservation: Clean the husk from the clove and you can pickle the clove in oil, honey or vinegar (see recipe at right). Garlic can also be infused into oil or made into a tincture. Dried cloves can be stored as is or powdered for later use.

8/28/2015 8:50:45 PM

This article needs a disclaimer. Fresh garlic in oil presents a very real risk of botulism poisoning, which can be deadly. Here's an extension service article that explains:



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