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When is the best time to harvest roots?

 
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Location: Eastern Washington
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I live in a sagebrush area and last spring discovered there are multiple types of edible roots growing everywhere out here. I read that fall time is best for harvesting and wondered if anyone has some experience they could share on this?
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pollinator
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An herbal doctor once said " I like to harvest the roots in the fall, the leads a good in the spring, and the best time to harvest flowers are when they're flowering." :)
 
Ricardo De Yakima
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Huxley Harter wrote:An herbal doctor once said " I like to harvest the roots in the fall, the leads a good in the spring, and the best time to harvest flowers are when they're flowering." :)



That confirms fall as the best time. I’m trying learn what it is about fall so I can harvest at the optimum time. For instance the cold? So early morning would be best perhaps?
 
pollinator
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I mow the sides of the road for area towns, and we try to push the mowing back towards August and September here in Maine because the trees do not grow back as much then. The "sap" is fully in the tree, so as we whack them off, they have very stunted growth. This is far different than in the winter because the tree is dormant, the sap in the roots, and so when spring comes, they coppice like mad! This happens in the Spring as well, but not as much as winter, and summer being less aggressive growth then winter or spring.

Now, how that relates to taste of root foraging, I am not sure. But it is all true; cutting trees in Auguste and September really limits regrowth.

Note: Mowing the sides of the road is done as vegetation control along roadways. I have nothing against coppicing, or foraging for roots for a homesteader. Both serve their purposes for what they are intended.
 
Huxley Harter
pollinator
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I believe the reason is that perennials usually store up nutrients in their roots to make it through winter.
 
pollinator
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Huxley Harter wrote:I believe the reason is that perennials usually store up nutrients in their roots to make it through winter.



That matches my understanding. But, there may be some variance from type to type. For example, the oca that I grew in Victoria is best harvested in December, it really doesn't bulk up before it gets quite cold. Most more common root crops would be at excessive risk of cold, disease, and critter damage harvested that late where I am was growing that..


But, always remember, if you are harvesting someone else's roots, the best time is when they are away! The second best time is 3AM on a dark night.
 
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I do not have a definitive answer. However, it has been my experience with garden root vegetables that they need to be harvested before it forms a flowering stalk. The production of this stalk causes a woody texture and uses up the sugar in the roots. Yuck. I suggest the likelihood that the roots that are good for harvesting in the fall, are the ones that did not flower this year. So attention to the plants'  aerial structure is important. I do grow the herb great burdock, and it is a wild weed that is required to be dug before it produces the flower stalk.
 
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According to Doc Jones (Homegrown Herbalist on Youtube), whose work I've followed for years, harvesting biennials in the Fall of their first year or as late as the next Spring before they flower will yield the most potent medicinal roots. The plant is storing energy to reproduce and everything is concentrated in the roots. Here's a link to a video of his that covers some great information on processing & drying herbs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5H-aNN5QjA . Information about roots begins close to the 9 minute mark.

Doc Jones runs a herbalist school in Utah (I think, could be Idaho). He's a veterinarian and naturopath as well as having raised 15 children with his wife. Check out his Youtube channel for free videos, I've found them very helpful.
 
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There may be different reasons for different plants.

I've read that biscuit root was harvested in the spring, while it was flowering because it was easier to find and identify then.  (Great plains area)

I've wondered if maybe partly it was also because the ground is softer in the spring.

I think a general rule is harvest in the fall, as has been noted, the plants are storing up energy for the winter.  I believe the more cold the plant can handle, and still stay green and growing, the later in the fall.

In an area where the ground doesn't freeze, you could probably dig them all winter (if the rodents don't hammer you too hard).
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