Another year, another spring tonic. Whilst we are supping last year’s Spring Tonic of Dandelion, Cleavers and Chickweed tinctures, for next year I have started the Dandelion tincture. Again following the folk method, whereby you don’t have to measure or weigh. This works for Dandelion, but not necessarily for other plants.
Step one: harvest your dandelion. This needs to be done with respect for the plant – it is giving me its medicinal properties and it is crucial that I have its agreement in this. None of the to me abhorrent practice of using nature as a ‘resource’ – I actually ask each plant whether it is ok to use it. There is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ quite clearly discernible after asking, much in the same way that we search for a ‘gut feeling’ on tricky issues. Very seldom do I encounter a ‘no’ but I move on when I do. I found our garden strewn with glorious Dandelion heads, luscious leaves and strong roots. Excellent! Here they are, harvested and washed.
During the washing, the herbs also have to be scumbled, that means picking out all ‘foreign’ bits, including bits of grass, other plants, one errant woodlouse I found, dead leaves, anything that is not the herb you are using. The next task is to dry them thoroughly, given that the ratio of water to alcohol in a tincture has to be fairly exact – even if one is using the folk method. This means using the salad spinner, first for three large batches, then a tiny handful at a time, to get most of the water off the plant material.
Then I spread the leaves and roots out on a dry towel and roll them up carefully, pressing and squeezing gently to mop up the remaining moisture.
After this they all get chopped, chopped, chopped, into the tiniest bits I can manage. Chop. And again, chop, chop, chop. When I lose the will to live as a human chopping machine, I pile them all into a sterilised Kilner jar, press them down, and fill the jar to the top of the herb with 40% vodka. Then the whole mixture is turned out into a large bowl and blitzed with the hand-held blitzing machine, whereupon it is returned to the Kilner jar, as shown below, taking up rather less room than before. Not because I sprayed vodka and Dandelion all over the kitchen, but because smaller bits take up less room.
Now it gets labelled and sealed. Labelling involves giving the Latin name at least (Taraxacum officinale), so there is no confusion, the method (folk), the strength of alcohol (40%) and the date upon which the tincture will be ready, namely 14 days from the making of it. I shall shake it twice a day, with intention, until it is ready to be strained and bottled (sterilise the bottles!), and labelled in exactly the same way as before.