Every fall, my grandpa and I would head into the woods with an axe, small spade shovel and a bucket or two. My grandpa seemed to know just when the time was right and exactly what area in the woods held the most flavorful roots. Often we would spend all day in the woods going from one area to the next as my grandpa explained the unwritten the rules of the woods. Rules such as
- Do not harvest too much from the same root ball.
- Never take more than you need.
- Always leave the area better than you found it.
Fall is typically the best time to harvest roots. Why? The cooler temperatures force plants to begin preparing for winter by storing up valuable energy sources and nutrients in their root systems. Some of the energy in the nutrient dense roots is in the form of sappy goodness that is good for you and has medicinal qualities. Those qualities are one reason preppers, and even people who do not consider themselves preppers, like to harvest and store up selected roots in the fall.
The varieties of roots that are good for you and can be harvested in the fall are many. For example there is the parsley root, nettle root, rhubarb root, dandelion root, ginseng root, horseradish root and sassafras root just to name a few. Here are three favorite roots I like to dig up.
It would not be fall if I did not harvest sassafras roots for sassafras tea. Although there has been some concern about possible toxic levels of carcinogens in the safrole oil extracted from the roots, and the FDA has banned the use of this one time flavoring agent, there is still no solid evidence proving this. Despite these warnings, sassafras does have medicinal qualities such as detoxification and it helps with Mucositis and Rheumatoid arthritis. And it still has loads of loyal consumers, including me.
One of the most hated weeds among homeowners just happens to be one of the best in the root world, the dandelion root. Primarily known for its detoxification qualities, it does have other uses such as treating an upset stomach and reducing joint inflammation. The dandelion plant is useful throughout the spring and summer but fall is time to dig up the roots but make sure you choose roots which have never been sprayed or treated with chemicals.
You might call the horseradish root the mighty giant in the root world because of how pungent it is. This root has several uses and one of my favorite ways to use it is in cooking. The ground up version is the perfect companion for meat dishes and homemade horseradish relish makes a great gift to give. But did you know it also has medicinal values and is an aid for those suffering from nasal and respiratory problems? A word of caution: this powerful root contains strong pungent oils and should be used with caution and only in the hands of an expert—especially if applying to the skin.
So start digging this fall and discover the world of roots and herbs and why many home preppers and survivalists are digging deeper to explore the many benefits they offer.
Do you collect roots for flavor or medicinal purposes? Tell us about it in the comment section.
Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics such as archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.
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