The Riddle of the Root in the Tea
Well here is some food for thought...The laws of supply and demand are by nature always playing catch-up, and right now that is happening with whole herb sheep sorrel. Awareness is really increasing about the central importance of sheep sorrel root in the Essiac formula, and more and more Essiac producers are being queried about whether they include the root, and how much compared to the arial parts. Still, almost no one can say they include any at all. They would have to grow their own sheep sorrel if they wanted roots. There are no commercial farms growing it for a whole plant or roots-only harvest at present.
At Blue Moon Herbs, we always did find a way to have at least 10% sheep sorrel root in our Essiac formula. We wildcrafted in the earliest years, and started growing our own sheep sorrel in 2013. That way, if our commercial source ran out, we would still have our own sheep sorrel root. Fast forward to fall 2015 and that very scenario played out. I got the official word that our commercial source was sold out, and their back-up source had had a drought-related crop failure. It was just in time for our first harvest from our Prize Bed out at the North 40 - the Long and Winding Row (300 feet long half-buried hugelkultur bed with drip lines). And then, I got the word that we would have to dig up our whole crop this spring because the land it was on was going up for sale.
Providence seemed to be ringing in with the new year, when I learned of a beautiful piece of property for lease that would be perfect to move the sorrel to, along with our six slippery elm trees. It had beautiful deep top soil and deer fence around 20 acres, with irrigation...just minutes from town. A bright flare of "Oh, this is going to be EASY!" sputtered out when they decided not to lease the property. Then...another late January OMG moment as I thought I had found the dream plot of land. Just a few minutes out of town, lake view, trees all around (it was a former Christmas tree farm that had had the center harvested out). But no.......
So. Plan C. Third try is a charm. Life is about relationships....in the world of Essiac, that means Essiac caregivers, making the tea for friends and family unable to do it, Essiac at the local Farmers' Markets...in the tea houses...available for all who wanted to take it. A group working together could supply the tea needs of their whole area. Some folks growing the herbs, some making the tea, some showing others how, and everyone benefitting in myriad ways. The theme at the center of it all is this herb sheep sorrel. It welcomes a challenge. It volunteers freely of itself! The pioneers keep life going and sheep sorrel is often the first on the scene, later leaving just as it arrived, all together, all at once, work done. A Guild - creating and strengthening the vital connections that support a healthy, thriving community. Whether it is a family of plants that grows together, each providing properties valuable to optimal survival for all, or a group of people with a common passion to create a beautiful community.
For about a year now we've had a Facebook group called the Essiac Growers Guild. It is a vehicle for sharing info and ideas about growing the Essiac herbs. Now it is happening on the ground! The Greater Flathead Valley Essiac Growers Guild. At present, membership is open to anyone willing to participate by sharing what they are doing - whether it is growing one small bed for personal use or contract growing for Blue Moon Herbs, to all points in between. As there is just one Chapter at this point, anyone on Planet Earth can join our Chapter. That's the 'Greater' part of our name. 🙂 We've gotten together a core group of people and gardens here in the Flathead area and a couple locations in Washington and in several other Montana towns. We will help each other while we have fun and make friends and it will 'grow' from there!
We encourage friends to get together for a potluck over this and consider forming your own local sister Essiac Growers' Guild. Signing up for the newsletters on the website or signing up for the Essiac Growers Guild on Facebook is the best way to follow what's happening. Feel free to contact us by email or phone at (406) 883-0110.
Our website would love to put up links for other sheep sorrel growers or Essiac producers that are following our same standards! Our standards, in a nutshell, are to grow organically on clean soil without any chemicals and in as pristine an environment as possible. To keep gardening data, to take care of weeding and watering while the beds become established, and to treat the plants with respect and friendliness.
For those making Essiac, the standards are found in the research and writings of Sheila Snow and/or Mali Klein, and Mary McPherson's affidavit. The sheep sorrel portion of the Essiac formula should include at least 10% root..and the more the better.
So, in the vein of the Riddle of the Root, we announce the evolution of the root ratio..as we make the switch from commercially sourced to our own Montana grown sheep sorrel! The sheep sorrel content in our Essiac is now 25% root, down from a high of 65% in 2015...... and up from the 10-20% of pre-2013...for only three out of the past eight years has there been a commercial source for certified organic whole herb sheep sorrel. From late 2013 through early 2016 we have been blessed with a commercial source, and have been able to offer wholesale and the larger sizes and other bargains... and high sheep sorrel root content. Now the cycle is going the other way again. But this time, it is a new game, with more players!
Conclusion 1: There is no higher quality whole herb sheep sorrel than organically grown, hand-weeded and hand-harvested sustainably. There is precious little of it being produced in this way that money can even buy. There is not really even a very robust supply of sheep sorrel arial parts in the US. Thankfully, though, sheep sorrel is not endangered or a problem weed, it's easy to grow, and volunteers freely in all 50 US states and most of the world...this supply and demand problem will work its solution 🙂 Labor of love = highest quality = a joy to provide = people who want to be a part of that.
Conclusion 2: There is no easy way to equal the quantity of whole herb sheep sorrel that can be produced commercially with that produced intensively and on a smaller scale. Unless a lot of small-scale growers work together to make it happen. This is our mission, to do all we can to see if that can work!
It would be wonderful to see larger-scale production of sheep sorrel herb for the root too and it would be really great to have larger producers participate in the Guild and share their knowledge and ideas.
In search of the holy grail of economy of scale! And sticking with our standards from day one - sheep sorrel roots in the formula, the highest quantity and quality, from us to you.
Happy spring! Enjoy your Made in Montana Essiac!
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