Last year I appropriated a large pot of Elecampane from a friend’s nursery. I unpotted it and snuffled through the soil for a truly impressive collection of nice, juicy roots. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amazing SMELL of them. Truly perfumey. Utterly fascinating. From that potted plant, I made an entire QUART of tincture which precipitated the most IMPRESSIVE collection of schmutz (that would be inulin) in the bottom of the jar. I divided the very crowded plant, kept one crown for my garden and divided the other two crowns into separate pots and gave them back to my friend. Not a bad deal for either of us!

During the following season my planted crown flourished in the vegetable garden and made a new shoot, but didn’t bloom. Spurred on by a great blogpost by Amanda Collins,   I decided to go out and see how it was doing. I noticed the leaves turning brilliant yellow awhile back and they’d gone quite black by now.

Elecampane finished leaves

I knew this plant had had a good season when I plunged my spading fork deep into the soft, wet soil and LEANED BACK. Whoa. I know a HUGE root-mass when I LEAN on one! I worked the fork around and around, went REALLY deep and leaned nice and steady. I heard multiple soft ‘pops’ as side roots snapped deep, deep beneath the soil. Fine by me. Always good to leave some roots behind. But one carrot-sized root was sticking out of the soil. Ohhhh no, not leaving ALL of that, so I dug with my hands until I could get a good grip and PULLED. Nice.

Elecampane root mass

I lifted my mud-covered ‘squid’ into a dishpan and headed for the house.

Once I did a bit of rinsing, I could see two distinct ‘heads’, each with MANY shoots for next year’s plants.

Elecampane head

Now, of course, at THIS point, the SCENT of the roots is already becoming evident. It was SUCH a fabulous surprise last year. I just about hyperventilated. But I have work to do here. So….as we know to do, I began to cut off the biggest, juiciest roots (at least pinkie-thickness or better) leaving all the smaller roots to feed the base again next year and become next November’s harvest. I began to wriggle and wrestle to see if I could get the two heads apart, but that wasn’t to be. I inspected the root mass and made an executive decision that each having their own spaces would be a good thing and cut them apart with a serrated knife. Astonishing how WOODY the center was, but each has plenty of roots and will be JUST fine.

Elecampane division

As I do with Teasel roots, the FIRST scrubbing is done in muddy basin water to get the worst of the dirt and clay off.

Elecampane semi-scrubbed

And the PROPER scrubbing, under running water,Elecampane properly scrubbed
 shows off the interesting pattern to the root skin.

Now for the REALLY yummy part, the SLICING. I still prefer to do this with my ever-present, ever-scrubbed and killur SHARP pruning shears. Slice, slice, slice into the bowl and the AROMA is just everywhere. Can I describe this?  It’s that MEDICINE ROOT smell that true Marshmallow root has and in an even MORE perfumey way Angelica root has and even FRESH Valerian root has. You just KNOW this stuff is MEDICINE.

Last year, I kept back some root slices just because I loved the way they smelled. They kept their scent in a wee plastic lip balm jar for the whole year, dry as corn flakes. I found myself wishing I’d thought to drill holes in them to make a necklace. Well, this is THIS year and DRILL I DID. Wish you could have seen me with my little Dremel tool “Weeeeeeee”. I did three of them and laid them on some paper and set about to exercise my Estimationary Eyeballs (that I’m sure I inherited from my father) I eyed the pile of slices in the bowl. Nope. Too  much for a half-pint and too light for a FULL pint. Hmmmmmm. So I went searching for THE JAR. Has to be around here SOMEwhere.

Elecampane in the perfect jar

Am I GOOD, or WHAT??? Yeah. THAT olive jar.

In goes the 100proof vodka and I wait for the appearance of ‘schmutz’. Elecampane makes LOTS of schmutz. (Inulin, as stated above) And the resulting tincture is nothing short of miraculous when your lungs are becoming sincerely WORRIED. (Know that feeling? I know that feeling) Your tonsils are doing their library lion thing (if you’ve GOT them) and a good cough is being a good bouncer, but SOMETHING is headed for DEEEEEP in the lungs. And you DON’T want to go there. Just a mere few drops of tincture will flavor a glassful of water with that PerfumeyRootyMediciney thing and you KNOW that help is on the way.

By the next day I have a nice, white inulin sand-barge beginning to happen in the bottom of the jar, and me? I have a rather ~unusual~ PerfumePendant.