Fall is the time of year for crisp air, sweaters, bonfires, colored leaves and it’s the perfect time to fall in love with ROOTS! It is traditionally one of the best times of year to gather these powerhouses of herbal goodness. There are so many different roots to dig, who can resist? Many roots can be a challenge to dig> That should not stop you! They are worth the time and effort not just for the physical challenge but for all the medicinal benefits roots can provide. The tools you will need include a good shovel, some gloves, a bucket and some patient determination. It is recommended to dig roots after the first frost. If the nights are a cool 35-40 degrees, you should be fine. Here are 3 of my favorite roots to love!
3 Roots to Love
Dandelion: Probably the easiest and the most abundant root of fall. Dandelions are a wonder as both a food and a medicine. They are a true survivor having endured the hatred, poison and pulling of many. Dandelion was originally brought to this country as a food and medicine source in the 1600’s. It was not until the love of perfect lawns began to overshadow their benefits that they fell from favor. The roots are high in micronutrients. It is also loaded with inulin not to be confused with insulin. It is a starch-like carbohydrate that has been found to be a PREbiotic food necessary for good gut health. Traditionally it has been used for liver health. It makes a wonderful tonic herb.
Burdock: This is a bit more of a challenge to dig that the dandelion. Burdock is a biannual plant. It can be dug either at the end of the first growing season (in fall) or in the spring of next season. When the burs of burdock are present, it is at the end of its life cycle. The root becomes woody and tough for eating but can be of some benefit as a medicinal. Like Dandelion, it also contains inulin making it a great PREbiotic food too. Not up for the digging challenge on this one, most Asian Grocery stores will have burdock root. It is known as “gobo” and makes a wonderful pickle or addition to a stir-fry. I love this growing box http://rosewoods.com/burdock-drawing-from-the-depths/ and plan to give it a try. Medicinally, burdock is a great alternative with an affinity for the skin. It is also considered a tonic herb and can be a good diuretic. You may have seen it as a main ingredient in Essiac tea used in the treatment of cancer as well.
Echinacea: This plant has several varieties but the most commonly used are Echinacea purpura or Echinacea augustifolia with all varieties being on the United Plant Savers “at risk” list of plants https://unitedplantsavers.org/species-at-risk-list/ For this reason, Echinacea purpura is the variety most often suggested for use as it is easily cultivated. It can spread in a flower bed easily. After at least 2 years, you can dig the roots making room for more growth. Commonly known as “the immune booster,” given at the onset of colds and flu, it has many other uses. I find the root a great alternative. Paul Bergner discusses its use in the treatment of toothaches, http://medherb.com/Materia_Medica/Echinacea_as_a_dental_remedy_.htm The root also has some sialagogue properties but not as potent as the flower heads.
All of these roots are tap roots so breaking while digging is not a problem. They will grow back. These are all plants that you can easily grow in your own garden or yard making them easy to monitor for contamination. I love a combination beverage of equal parts dried root of dandelion, burdock and chicory root. My favorite fall treat is roasted dandelion. I first learned this from my friend Rose. Here is her recipe, https://rosebarlowsprodigalgarden.wordpress.com/2017/11/02/how-to-make-roasted-dandelion-root-coffee/ Happy Digging!