When is the best time to harvest medicinal herbs?

Here on the farm, as the dry, smokey summer air segues into crisp, damp autumn, we are entering into our root harvest season. We often get questions from customers about when is the best time to harvest medicinal herbs? For all the root crops we grow, the answer is pretty straightforward- we harvest in the fall. 


The Life Cycle of a Plant

In the life cycle of a plant, the spring is like its childhood; it’s energy is going into rapid and visible growth. Summer is like its adulthood, when reproduction occurs and takes much of the plant’s’ energy. The fall is like a plant’s elderhood, when it can retire from being active and out in the world and its energy turns more inward. At this time, the energy of the plants goes back into the ground, to be stored in their roots awaiting their next cycle (if they are perennials or biennials). Consequently, this stage makes for the most nourishing and medicinal roots.  

After starting the seed, planting the plants, then weeding and watering them for months (sometimes years for some of our root crops), our amazingly hard-working farm crew is finally ready to harvest the roots from the soil. After that, they chop off the aerial parts (tops) of the plant by hand with machetes. Then, they put the roots into the root washing tumbler to remove most of the soil. After this, the roots get roughly chopped up and then moved onto screens in our herb dryers.  Some roots – if the pieces aren’t small enough – need further milling to make more uniform pieces. It is quite a journey for these plants and quite a laborious and care-filled process for the farm workers.


root harvest


On top of all that, some of our roots stay in the ground for at least two years. This gives them time to grow and to optimize their medicinal content. When you get our Echinacea, Elecampane, Pleurisy, Mullein, Marshmallow, or Comfrey,  their Oshala journey began as a seed in our greenhouse at least two years prior!  

Interested in fresh roots? We start taking orders in January.

We hope you feel the time, energy, and care that goes into our root medicines when you use them to care for yourselves and your communities.

~ The Oshala Farm Crew