Over the last few weeks I'd been reading a lot about Elecampane (Inula helenium). I wasn't researching it it just kept coming up. I grow two plants in my garden so I thought I should harvest some and get better acquainted with it. It's a gorgeous plant which grows as tall as me with a large yellow flower in the summer time. I got my plants from the amazing Ponytsfield nursery in scotland. They send little plugs in the post, it's a brilliant service. My Elecampanes are about 4 years old now. 2 years ago I harvested a root to make a tincture but I almost never use it for my patients. It's a hot expectorant which is good for moving stagnant mucous from the lungs. I hardly ever see this problem in my clinic. This might be because I specialise in women's health. I also don't like to use hot remedies much myself as I can get over-stimulated by them. Then I read something intriguing.
I read that when you prepare a plant in sugar the sweetness will lessen the heat in it and help to strengthen its tonic properties. This was then repeated to me when I interviewed Nathalie Chidley for the last podcast. Then it was recommended to me by a herbalist as a pick-me-up for the winter blues. AND Alexis Cunningfolk wrote about it on her blog too! It really was popping up everywhere. You can read a full profile on the plant over on her website here. But I couldn't find a recipe for candying Elecampane so I made up my own by adapting a crystallised ginger recipe.
Sweet tastes found in nature are an indicator that something contains polysaccharides or saponins. They tend to make the plant/herb you're eating moistening and neutral. Sweet herbs generally build up weakend conditions and strengthen the body as a whole. Elecampane is naturally a fragrant bitter. This is because it contains sesquiterpene lactones and triterpenes which make it helpful in boosting the digestive processes. It could be helpful to those that seem to be failing to thrive without any known cause. It is warming and drying which makes it good for melting old phlegm in the lungs so it can be coughed up. It has anti-microbial effects which help to combat infections which may contribute to why there was phlegm and a cough in the first place. But it shouldn't be used during pregnancy. By coating it in coconut nectar I hope to improve the toning properties of Elecampane while decreasing the drying properties. (Read more about tastes and preparing herbs in The Modern Dispensatory by Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, I've put a link just below).
I decided to use Coconut nectar instead of refined sugar because it still contains trace minerals which are good for you and behaves very similarly to refined sugar. It did make it all come out a very different colour though!
- Fresh elecampane root
- Coconut nectar
- Dig up your root and give it a good wash
- Slice the root diagonally
- Weigh the root
- Whatever the root weighs add the same quantity of coconut nectar
- Place in a pan with 2 tablespoons of water
- Put the pan on the heat and melt the coconut nectar
- Keep moving the roots around so they get coated in the melted coconut nectar, the nectar will be in a rolling boil at this point
- Keep on the heat till it all starts to bind together
- Once it all binds together into a big clump take it off the heat
- Put the root slices onto baking paper and spread it out to dry
- Store in an air tight jar for up to one month
I have to say I have found chomping on this sweeter version of the root enjoyable. It's very stimulating and I only need a single slice a day, or less. Someone described the taste quite perfectly; a sweet fishermans friend (you might need to google what that is). It's very pungent, aromatic, bitter and sweet. Not for the faint of heart, that's for sure!