Friday, September 5, 2014

Watch For Mullein

Fuzzy Leaves.

Here in the northeast we've had a pretty mild summer and I've heard that other parts of the U.S. have as well.  My tomatoes and peppers may not be acting like their usual bright prolific selves but other plants are picking up the slack.

One example that doesn't seem to give a rip about our summer weather is Verbascum thapsus, the common mullein.

One of the first local "weeds" Mrs. Farmer noticed on the farm after we moved in during spring of last year, mullein can be found all over.  In fact, it grows all over the country so if you know what to look for you probably have some in your neighborhood too.

As a biennial you'll sometimes spot a first year plant low to the ground, distinctive fuzzy leaves forming a small crown barely taller than your toes.  In year 2 however you'll see mullein bolt, resulting in tall standing plants with a long spike of little yellow flowers as you'll see in my pictures here.

I'm interested in these plants today because of their seeds.  I want to be able to use more mullein leaves which means I'll be looking to harvest more which is of course a goal greatly aided by having more plants roundabout.  Having already harvested seeds from one plant which was completely dried out these others in the yard will be watched closely as they finish growing and drying out.

Waiting until they are dried does cost you some seed as it will spill some as you harvest but that both guarantees you will not have interrupted the development of seeds by harvesting early and also gives you a good chance of seeing more mullein there next year too.

The seeds are incredibly small, planting them by scattering and only barely covering them is best.  Birds love them, which is not a surprise for such a widespread plant with such a small seed.  Because of this you will want to over seed places where you want the mullein to grow, possibly even covering or protecting them while they get established.

Of course the reason for gathering seed and planting more is back in here, with the fuzzy leaves.

These leaves will make an appearance in many of our winter teas, but most especially those for cough, flu, or colds.  Such teas have been historically used as an herbal treatment for coughs, congestion, chest colds, bronchitis and inflammation.  Beyond that, some sources suggest it may have provided some relief even to those suffering from asthma or tuberculosis.

Did I mention the seeds are tiny?
Even with plans to harvest and promote the volunteers we will probably need more than we have harvested so far before the end of the winter. Planting garden beds to mullein might be a bit crazy, but tossing seeds into some of the less used spaces around the yard (where it seems to be thriving anyway) can only help the situation.

Ideally I would like enough plants, and enough seed, to be able to offer tea mixes, dried leaves, and seed to you all also. I never thought I'd be considering selling herbal teas, but when you have something good it makes sense to share it.  Until then, if you keep your eyes open you may find some of your own to harvest near you.  After all, it does grow "like a weed".  Makes me wonder what other beneficial plants have managed to get a bad rap in our age of garden centers and weed-b-gone.  Could the cure to heart disease, diabetes, or cancer be a common weed slain daily all over the United States by weedkillers and string trimmers?

Thanks for stopping by.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Those are tiny seeds. I haven't seen these around here but I'll keep an eye out now that I'm aware of its uses.