Herbs in October

October arrives with the freshness of Autumn as the plants shift their energy from seeds to roots.

 Clockwise from top right - Lavender seeds, Sloe berries, Dandelions, Parsley seed, Mint cuttings, Rose hips

Clockwise from top right - Lavender seeds, Sloe berries, Dandelions, Parsley seed, Mint cuttings, Rose hips

HARVEST

The berry season continues with some rose hips, hawthorn, and sloes still around.

Keep an eye out for mature seed heads, and save them either for consumption or for planting next year. Remember that in the wild, many plants rely on their dropped seeds for propagation, so if foraging, be mindful of how much you’re taking.

Now it is also the time to start harvesting roots. As plants begin preparing for the winter months ahead, they transfer their energy to the roots, so autumn is the perfect time to harvest medicinal roots like dandelion, burdock, elecampane, yellow dock, marshmallow and valerian. Some roots, particularly starchy ones, are better harvested once they have been exposed to the cold, so it’s a good idea to wait until the first frost to start digging.

MAKE

Have you heard of Dandelion coffee? This healthy coffee substitute is simply the dried and powdered roots of the common dandelion we see everywhere. Just like coffee, it’s pretty bitter and makes a delicious drink, but unlike coffee, it can be sourced locally and it’s free! It is also packed with nutrients and has an array of health benefits, improving gallbladder function and promoting healthy digestion.

If you had any fennel going to flower this year, you were probably left with a bunch of beautiful seed heads. A great and delicious way to use fennel seeds is to munch them as an after meal digestive. Herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt has a great recipe for a digestive treat using fennel seed and candied ginger.

IN THE GARDEN

Lift and divide overcrowded herbaceous perennials while the soil is still warm.

If you want to keep any herbaceous culinary herbs going throughout winter, lift and pot some of the plants up and take them indoors to a sunny windowsill. Alternatively, there is still time to take cuttings and get new little plants going.

Prune climbing and rambling roses once they've finished flowering.

Something to bear in mind this time of the year is the importance of insect habitats where our tiny friends can overwinter. Simple things like leaving the dried flower stems on the plants, or a couple of logs on the ground can make a huge difference and will offer shelter to dozens of different bugs. For an even bigger impact, you can build a ‘bug hotel’ using simple materials like twigs, dried leaves, straw and cardboard.

SOW

With the cold months approaching, now is not the best time to start new herbs from seed outdoors, but if you have a sunny windowsill, you can grow leafy culinary herbs indoors pretty much all year round. Coriander, parsley, dill and chives are some great options.

INNER GARDENING

Autumn is root time. As we’ve seen plants put their energy into their roots so they have a strong and stable foundation to blossom from in spring. We are the same: to grow, blossom and flow through life’s challenges we need secure roots and a solid grounding. This sense of stability and rootedness is found by feeling at home in our bodies and on the body of the earth. This can be difficult in a culture that prioritises thought and predominantly indoor lifestyles. Here are a few suggestions to connect with your roots:

  • Dance! Dance is one of the best ways to connect to your body and to feel your physical presence on the ground. Putting our attention and weight down into the legs and feet is instantly grounding. Swing your hips to the radio while making tea, put some music on that you love and dance in your room or go to a dance class. This is a guaranteed way to connect to the root of your body. Yoga is super supportive for connecting to the body too.

  • Get a massage. This is a wonderful way to feel the physicality of your body and to treat it with the love it deserves. There are many places to get reasonably priced massages at student clinics and community centres or you could do an exchange with a friend or partner.

  • Focus on your feet. By bringing energy to our feet we are strengthening our rootedness and the base on which we stand. Wiggle your toes in your shoes, stamp your feet on the ground, get a pedicure or rub some oil into your feet before bed.

  • Research your roots and find out where you are from. Ask family members about your grandparents or great grandparents and if there are any photos of them. As many great teachers have said, to know where we are going, means knowing our roots and where we are from.


Words Camila B & Amy B