Part One of this article explained herbal vinegars’ many potent qualities as herbal home remedies, and reviewed the basic tools and simple process of making herbal vinegars. A journey into the author’s garden illustrated how we can reap nature’s rewards and harvest numerous herbs for herbal vinegars. Now, we get to the root of making herbal vinegars: roots! We’ll also review some helpful tips for making vinegars, and review a list of plants that make for tasty vinegars and for herbal calcium supplements.
The main work of this frosty fall morning is to harvest roots: dandelion, burdock, yellow dock, and chicory roots. I’ve been waiting for the frost to bite deep before harvesting the nourishing, medicinal roots of these weeds. With my spading fork (not a shovel, please) I carefully unearth their tender roots, leaving a few to mature and shed seeds so I have a constant supply of young roots. I love the feel of the root sliding free of the soil and into my hands, offering me such gifts of health.
Burdock I admire especially, for its strength of character and its healing qualities. I settle down to do some serious digging to unearth their long roots. For peak benefit, I harvest at the end of the first year of growth, when the roots are most tenacious and least willing to leave the ground. Patience is rewarded when I dig burdock. Eaten cooked or turned into a vinegar (and the pickled pieces of the root consumed with the vinegar), burdock root attracts heavy metals and radioactive isotopes and removes them quickly from the body. For several hundred years at least, and in numerous cases that I have witnessed, burdock root is known to reverse pre-cancerous changes in cells.
Dandelion and chicory are my allies for long life. They support and nourish my liver and improve the production of hydrochloric acid in my stomach, thus ensuring that I will be better nourished by any food I eat. I make separate vinegars of each plant, but like to put both their roots and their leaves together in my vinegar. A spoonful of either of these in a glass of water in the morning or before meals can be used to replace coffee. Note that roasted roots used in coffee substitutes do not have the medicinal value of fresh roots eaten cooked or preserved in vinegar.
Yellow dock is the herbalist’s classic remedy for building iron in the blood. Like calcium, iron is absorbed better when eaten with an acid, such as vinegar, making yellow dock vinegar an especially good way to utilize the iron-enhancing properties of this weed. (It nourishes the iron in the soil, too, and is said to improve the yield of apple trees it grows under.)
And at that thought, I awaken from my reverie and return to spring’s sunshine with a smile. The white cat twines my legs and offers to help me carry the basket back inside to the warmth of the fire. The circle has come around again, like the moon in her courses. Autumn memories yield spring richness. The weeds of fall offer tender green magic in the spring. What I harvested last November has been eaten with joy and I return to be gifted yet again by the wild that lives here with me in my garden.
NOTES ON MAKING HERBAL VINEGAR
- It is vital to really fill the jar. This will take more herb or root than you would think.
- A good selection of jars of different sizes will enable you to fit your jar to the amount of plant you’ve collected. I especially like baby food jars, mustard jars, olive jars, peanut butter jars and juice jars. Plastic is fine, though I prefer glass.
- Always fill jar to the top with plant material; never fill a jar only part way.
- Pack the jar full of herb. How much~ How tight~ Tight enough to make a comfortable mattress for a fairy. Not too tight and not too loose. With roots, fill jar to within a thumb’s width of the top.
- For maximum strength herbal vinegar, snip or chop herbs and roots.
- For maximum visual delight, leave plants whole.
- Regular pasteurized apple cider vinegar from the supermarket is what I use when I make my herbal vinegar. Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar can also be used. Note that unpasteurized vinegar forms vinegar “mothers.” Vinegar mothers are harmless. (Actually, they’re of value. I’ve seen vinegar mothers for sale for fancy prices in specialty food shops.) In a jar filled with herb and vinegar, the vinegar mother usually grows across the top of the jar, clinging to the herb, and looking rather like a damp, thin pancake.
- Rice vinegar, malt vinegar, wine vinegar, or any other natural vinegar can be used, but they are much more expensive than apple cider vinegar and many have a taste which overpowers or clashes with the taste of the herbs.
- I don’t use white vinegar, nor do I use umeboshi vinegar (a Japanese condiment).
- The reason that most recipes for herbal vinegar tell you to boil the vinegar is to pasteurize it! I do not find it necessary to heat the vinegar as it is already pasteurized and the final vinegar tastes better if the herbs are not doused with boiling vinegar.
PLANTS THAT MAKE EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD-TASTING HERBAL VINEGARS
- Apple mint leaves, stalks
- Bee balm (Monarda didyma) flowers, leaves, stalks
- Bergamot (Monarda sp.) flowers, leaves, stalks
- Burdock (Arctium lappa) roots
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria) leaves, stalks
- Chicory (Cichorium intybus) leaves, roots
- Chives and especially chive blossoms
- Dandelion (Traxacum off.) flower buds, leaves, roots
- Dill (Anethum graveolens) herb, seeds
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) herb, seeds
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Garlic mustard (Alliaria officinalis)
- Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) flowers
- Ginger (Zingiber off.) and Wild ginger (Asarum canadensis) roots
- Lavender (Lavendula sp.) flowers, leaves
- Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) new growth leaves and roots
- Orange mint leaves, stalks
- Orange peel, organic only
- Peppermint (Mentha piperata and etc.) leaves, stalks
- Perilla (Shiso) leaves, stalks
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.) leaves, stalks
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata) leaves, stalks
- Thyme (Thymus sp.) leaves, stalks
- White pine (Pinus strobus) needles
- Yarrow (Achilllea millifolium) flowers and leaves
PLANTS TO USE WHEN MAKING AN HERBAL CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT
- Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) leaves
- Cabbage leaves
- Chickweed (Stellaria media) whole herb
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) leaves
- Dandelion leaves and root
- Kale leaves
- Lambsquarter (Chenopodium album) leaves
- Mallow (Malva neglecta) leaves
- All mints, including sage, motherwort, lemon balm, lavender, peppermint, etc.
- Mugwort (cronewort) (Artemisia vulgaris)
- Nettle (Urtica dioica) leaves
- Parsley (Petroselinum sativum) leaves
- Plantain (Plantago majus) leaves
- Raspberry (Rubus species) leaves
- Red clover (Trifolium pratense) blossoms
- Violet (Viola ordorata) leaves
- Yellow dock (Rumex crispus and other species) roots
HERBAL VINEGARS WHERE YOU EAT THE PICKLED PLANTS, TOO
- Yellow Dock