The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to harvest echinacea

Harvesting echinacea roots

Echinacea purpurea (also known as Purple Coneflower) is one of the few herbs Mark and I imbibe.  If we're going to be travelling or hanging around small children, we'll take a bit of echinacea the day before, the day of, and the day after to help our immune systems know Praying mantis on echinaceathere will germs to fight off.  As a preventative, it's hard to say whether the echinacea helps, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

In the past, we've bought echinacea from the drug store, but my own little plant (a gift from a friend when we moved to the farm) is finally old enough to divide and harvest.  Although some people use other parts of the plant, it sounds like you'll get the most medicinal qualities out of the roots harvested a week or two after the hard frosts kill back most of the top growth of the plant.  In addition, it's best to wait to harvest until your echinacea plants are at least two or three years old, and then to only harvest 20% or less of the roots per year, so you don't kill the plant.

Dividing echinacea

Since it had been six years since this plant went into the ground, I was able to gently pull the clump apart into three sections at the same time I harvested the roots.  One section will go back in place, another will move into the forest garden, and a third will hedge our bets by going to a friend.

Fresh echinacea rootsI only cut some of the small feeder roots since we don't use much echinacea (and since the herb is only good for about a year).  After rinsing them carefully, the little roots dried in the sun for a few hours to get rid of most of the wash water.  Next, I cut them with scissors into half inch pieces, which will ensure that the roots dry within two to four days (giving them no time to mold).  The final step will be to store the echinacea roots in a dark, air-tight container, then to brew up a decoction by boiling them for 30 to 60 minutes as needed.

My plantain salve has come in handy, and I realized I use more of these medicinals when I have them in processed form on the shelf.  So hopefully the echinacea will also hit the spot.

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock healthy by preventing them from drinking manure-laden water.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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