On a delightful late summer afternoon last week a group of UConn Master Gardeners gathered at Carole Miller’s beautiful Top Most Herb Farm http://www.topmostherbfarm.com/ to participate in a hands-on workshop on making herbal tinctures.
Carole is a Master Gardener, and an organic gardener who specializes in growing medicinal and culinary herbs and some fantastic heirloom tomato plants. She offers charming and informative classes at her farm. Carole has taught numerous classes for our program, and she never fails to captivate her audience, she is adept at sharing her knowledge of herbs, gardening wisdom, growing and cultivating techniques. In addition to instruction Carole includes in her classes tasting of culinary delights that are often infused with her favorite herbs. I have tasted incredible pestos, an interesting variety of herbal butters, lavender cookies, buttermilk scones and my all time favorite rose geranium lemon cake. Her herbal tea and cardamom coffee are wonderful accompaniments. She serves these delights in her 18th century kitchen. We learned this week that she also does an apple pie class where the pies are baked in her brick beehive oven.
The tincture that Carole introduced us to at this class is made from Inula helenium, commonly known as elecampane, wild sunflower, or horseheal. It is a member of the sunflower family Asteraceaeor Compositae.
As a medicinal herb elecampane has traditionally been used as a respiratory tonic to treat coughs in cases of asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough.The root is the part used medicinally, and its chemical constituents have been shown to have expectorant and antiseptic properties that support its traditional uses.
Participants in the class dug, the roots of the elecampane which Carole grows in her rich compost enhanced soil in a partially shaded area. After digging the roots were washed and then brought into the greenhouse where the roots were chopped and placed in glass jars and covered with grain alcohol which over a period of a few weeks will extract the active ingredients. Carole also discussed the preparation process of other herbal tinctures.
The class is one of several offered by the Advanced Master Gardener Program. These classes are open to the public. The colorful catalog of a variety of interesting classes can be viewed at http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/documents/AMGCatalogFall11.pdf
Applications for the 2012 UConn Master Gardener program are now being accepted. You can find more information about the program and an application at http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/