Category Archives: Harvesting

Wellness Wednesday: Calendula

Calendula officinalis – Also known as marigold or pot marigold.

Calendula’s bright flowers range in color from yellow to a bright orange. It has widely spaced toothy leaves and grows to a height of about 18 inches. Be sure not to confuse this bushy, aromatic annual with African or French Marigold.

It is a readily self seeding annual. Plant in direct sun with well drained soil with moderate water. Pick flower heads daily to encourage more growth. Calendula will repel eelworm in the garden and is a good companion plant for beans, lettuce, potatoes, roses and tomatoes.

Calendula is a great soothing herb for the skin. I use it in a lot of my salves, oil and skin care recipes to sooth and calm skin redness, rash, and irritation. It is good to treat cuts, burns, lacerations, bruises, diaper rash, sprains and inflammation. It promotes rapid healing and helps minimize scarring.

Calendula is great in a poultice for sore nipples, ulcers, sprains and varicose veins.

It is also a very good lymphatic herb that helps thin and drain lymph that sometimes gets clogged and congested.  My husband had very thick lymph around his neck and ears that was causing ear issues and with massage, and Calendula tea, his lymph drainage improved and so did his ear problems. It also boosts immunity by increasing lymphatic drainage. Note that Calendula tea will make you pee a lot, and this is a good thing. Just be sure to drink plenty of water with it to help aid the body in the clearing of toxins from the body.

I hope you can see why this wonderful and beautiful herb is always at hand in my herbal “Medicine Cabinet“.

How do you use Calendula?


Shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday.

Lakeside chamomile

So we went to estes park two weekends ago to get out of the heat and go for a hike. As things turned out our car had some issues (just the fuel injector thankfully) and we spent some time resolving that issue instead of hiking. So since we were already there we decided to go for a walk around the lake. We took the short 3.8 mile path and it was a nice, beautiful, relaxing walk.


I have started learning to identify herbs out in the wild and don’t usually pick anything unless I know exactly what it is. I got a handy dandy little chart last week from borders to help me better identify native Colorado plants. This plant though I can identify pretty much anywhere. Chamomile.

German Chamomile

We all know chamomile, or at least should. It is a wonderful calming,  cooling herb. People use it to sleep, soothe and relax, reduce redness and inflamation, help resolve bloating, stomach pain and nausia. Other benefits include soothing colds, helping wounds or abscesses heal, reducing gum inflammation, treating skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, and treating ulcerative colitis. Chamomile is also gentle enough to be taken to treat children’s maladies like chicken pox, diaper rash, and colic. Generally, chamomile is taken as soon as symptoms manifest themselves.

So as we were starting along the lake path I see large patches of Chamomile growing along the walking path. I am not sure if you know this, because I sure didn’t until this spring, but chamomile is a weed. It will grow anywhere and it loves disturbed soil. Our back yard in our house in Spokane is full of the stuff instead of grass. I promise you that just happened and had nothing to do with anything we might have done!

So lots of chamomile all down the path and I decide to pick some. I end up getting a good 4 handfuls of full chamomile plants before we were done with our walk and I hardly made a dent in the chamomile patches.

As you may know one of the tenants in wild crafting is  you leave enough of the plant to leave seeds for the next generation to grow next year. We avoid exhausting our resources now so that they are available for us again next season. I know a novel concept but it seems to work when our greedy human brains don’t get in the way.

So why, you ask, did I pick the whole chamomile plant instead of just the flowers for the tea? I picked the whole plant so that I could dry the plant and get the flowers for the tea, then I will make an oil infusion with the rest of the plant for use in skin care recipes. I will also probably go back, get some more fresh plants and make a quarter bottle of vodka and quarter bottle of vinegar (separately not together) worth of chamomile tincture for use later.

What do you like to use chamomile for?

How to make Roasted Dandelion Tea (or Coffee)

In my last post about harvesting dandelions, I talked about all the great benefits of the different parts of the dandelion, and a little bit about how and where to harvest them, so here is what we do next.

When we are done digging the dandelion up from the ground we have a nice long thick root that can be up to a foot long, (if we got a nice big plant, if not we have smaller roots to work with which is ok too). We are then going to separate the plant into 3 parts, the flowers, the leaves and the root. The stems the flowers are on can be tossed unless you need the latex sap to remove warts.

Flowers are edible, leaves are great in tea or in salad (if they are young and tender), and the roots are perfect for making tea/coffee.

I am going to be honest, the difference between dandelion tea and coffee is the strength you make it so the words are interchangeable here and I drink it as tea so please forgive me if I use one or the other but really, the difference is the steep time. The dandelion coffee you can buy in the store is not pure dandelion, but has other ingredients of barley, rye, along with dandelion root, chicory roots and beetroot. I personally prefer the straight dandelion flavor. When you roast them in the oven to dry it has a nice smoky slightly bitter flavor. It is almost like a dark black tea, not as much like coffee but still really good! And you don’t need creamer or sugar for the dandelion like you do for coffee.

So you have a nice big pile of dirty fresh out of the ground dandelion root, what next?

Wash wash wash! I rinsed my roots off on the drive way with the hose before even bringing them into the house. This is to get the big obvious chunks of dirt off, as well as any worms that might be hiding in the roots. Worms love dandelion roots!

After they are rinsed I bring them inside and soak them in the sink with some Bio-Clean produce wash. My front yard is completely pesticide and animal free, but the produce wash is still a good idea to help get the dirt and any chemical residue that might be picked up from the air or water runoff from the neighbor’s house, etc. After soaking the roots in the bio-clean solution for 10 minutes I rinse again and scrape/scrub off any remaining dirt. Then rinse rinse rinse until there is no residue in your water! Dirt can get attached to those roots pretty well so it takes some time to make sure they are really clean. It almost reminds me of cleaning leeks, only it takes more time.

Once they are nice and clean chop up the roots into about 1/2 inch lengths and rinse again (just in case you missed some dirt). Then throw the roots into the food processor and process down to the size of coffee grounds.

Take a large baking sheet, or three, depending on how much you harvested, and cover with a very thin layer of olive or peanut oil so the grounds don’t stick, then put the sheets in the oven at 225 degrees for 2 1/2 hours (or until they are dry). Leave the oven door open so that the moisture can escape and the root will dry faster.

The oven leaves a nice roasted flavor that you don’t get from the dehydrator. It is worth the warm kitchen!

Once it is all dry you can store it in zip lock bags or glass containers and use as needed.

Use 1 tbsp roasted roots per cup of coffee. You can add more or less depending on how strong you like your coffee. You can simmer the roots in the coffee pot for 10-15 min to get the correct strength. For tea let the roots steep for 5-10 min, strain and drink. French press works wonders for all types of herbal tea!

Here are some more ideas for tea recipes from

Dandelion roots can also be used in some other beverage aside from coffee. We can make a spicy tea from these roots. This tea is called ‘Chai’ in Middle East but it is just tea in America. You will need:

a cup Roasted Dandelion root
6 tablespoons of Fennel or Anise seed
36 green pods of Cardamom
72 Cloves
6 sticks of Cinnamon
2 tablespoons of dried Ginger root
1½ teaspoon of black peppercorns
12 Bay leaves.

Mix tea mixture well, add 1/4 cup of mixture (with 1 cinnamon stick per pot) to a pot of boiling water and let boil for 20 min. Let cool and serve. You can add milk and honey to taste.

The next chai is has a chocolatey flavor.
2 cups Roasted Dandelion root
½ cup Cinnamon bark
½ cup Ginger root
½ cup Cardamom seeds
½ cup Star Anise

Every 2 cups of water use 3 tablespoon. Simmer it for 10 minutes. Add milk and honey, then heat but do not boil. You can serve it either hot or cold.

This spicy tea is good for winter.
1 cup Roasted Dandelion root
½ cup dried Orange Peel
½ cup Cinnamon bark
¼ cup dried Ginger root

Per cup, use 1 tablespoon only. Simmer it for 10-15 minutes the use honey to sweeten it.

Enjoy the goodness!

Harvesting Dandelions

I have always said that Dandelions should be the state flower of Washington, or at least the flower of Spokane. They are Everywhere! They grow like weeds! I am not sure how lilacs won out, but I guess the appeal of lilacs is that they are cultivated for their beauty and scent, and don’t maliciously take over yards, hill sides and anywhere else it can get its grubby little seeds to.

Well this week I harvested some dandelions from my front yard. Yes harvested, as in I intend to use them instead of just throwing them in the yard waste bin.

Are you crazy? I can hear it now. My husband even told me dandelions are poisonous! Well that’s not really true, but I appreciate the concern darling.

I was first introduced to the uses of dandelion when I had gall bladder problems during and after my pregnancy. Being the concerned mama I am I wanted to avoid surgery or heavy medications like hydrocodone when I was pregnant. I searched and searched for something I could do to ease my gall bladder pain and couldn’t find anything. My most wonderful and awesome massage therapist/birth doula/ friend suggested I try warm water with lemon, that helped but I found dandelion* tea (with lemon) and it eased the nausea and pain from the gall bladder enough that I didn’t have to drug my self! YAY!

I was reintroduced to dandelion when I took an herbal medicine making class this weekend at Sun People Dry Goods. I will give a shout out to the class and the store. There are two more classes in the series that I will miss because we are moving to CO! So sad. If you get a chance I would highly recommend it. In the next class they are discussing sacred gathering techniques, making salves and doing some herb and flower gathering! I digress.

So we were discussing the plants that are great to harvest in the spring and dandelions were one of them. If you could see my front yard you would know that we do a very good job here at Chet Labrow at cultivating dandelions… not on purpose I promise you, it mostly happened with years of benign neglect. After some inspiration I decided to harvest these plants, mostly for the roots and flowers, but now that I read more about them I will go back for leaves and dry them for tea. And as added bonus, there are less dandelion plants in the yard! That will make the landscapers happy when they come to sod our yard.

Dandelion roots

What I got from my first gathering session is a large strainer of dandelion root. The leaves were thrown away and the flowers thrown back to the lawn (thanks to my Husband). I will have a post about how to process, dry, and prepare roots for tea in another post.

Dandelions have many tasty uses, and are very beneficial to health. The thick juicy root grows deep into the ground tapping into minerals in the dirt and taking those minerals into its self for a health benefit equal to spinach or brocoli (according to the book Natural Healthy by Nerys Purchon). The best time according to the book to harvest the roots is the fall and winter because the roots are sweetest. In the class the teacher said the spring was the best time because the roots had spent all winter taping into the earth and investing their energy into growing deep and strong roots. I will try the fall gathering in CO and let you know if there is a difference.

The young leaves have a great flavor and are wonderful accents to salads, sandwiches or juices (green smoothie anyone?). The older leaves I would avoid eating straight, they are very bitter and not very tasty. If you are starving and need food and all you have is old dandelion leaves you can boil them… but who would want to?

When drunk as a tea, the leaves are a powerful (and safe) diuretic; they are also a source of potassium, which is vital for the body and is stripped from the body with most other diuretics.

The flowers are edible.  They have a slight savory bitter first flavor with floral after tones. I have only eaten them raw right off of the plant, but I plan to try a dandelion fritter recipe I got from a friend. The flowers I harvested from this batch my hubby threw out, thinking that I just took the flowers off for Ellie to play with, and not actually to eat… Did I mention he thinks I am kinda kookie? The flowers can also be added to salads, or be made into wine! What a great idea… I am going to have to try that! I love wine… any anything that you can make wine with can’t be bad right?

When drunk as a decoction** two or three times daily, the roots gently stimulate the liver and gall bladder. I drank it as a tea and let the tea sit for 3-4 hours instead of boiling the roots straight because I didn’t think to go out and dig in my front yard, but instead bought Traditional Medicinals tea.

The roots and leaves are used for their anti-inflamitory and cleansing properties and can help relieve joint inflamation.

Also, apparently the latex sap that oozes from the cut stem is traditionally the best way of getting rid of warts. Apply the latex several times a day to the wart (not the surrounding skin where it can cause irritation). Too bad it doesn’t work on moles… we have a lot of those to test this out on! But alas, we are wart free. If you have a wart try it out and let me know if this works!

*As a warning please consult your natropath or herbalist to learn which herbs are safe to eat or use while pregnant. Herbs can be potent and affect your pregnancy or child negatively. The FDA does not regulate herbs or herbal remedies so make sure you surround your self with knowledgeable people before you take anything! Also as another note, allopathic medical practitioners are not trained in herbalism or natural healing/relief and are terrified of anything natural. This does not mean that there are no natural aides, it just means you have to be cautious and knowledgeable.

**Decoction is a method of extraction, by boiling, of dissolved chemicals, or herbal or plant material, which may include stems, roots, bark and rhizomes. Decoction involves first mashing, and then boiling in water to extract oils, volatile organic compounds, and other chemical substances.[1] The process can also be applied to meats and vegetables to prepare bouillon or stock.[2]

decoction is also the name for the resulting fluid. Decoctions differ from most teas, infusions, or tisanes, in that they are usually boiled. The term is used colloquially in South India to refer to black coffee prepared by the traditional method.[citation needed]