When deciding what to tincture, consider the season. Foragers generally harvest plants and mushrooms when they are at their peak. If you don’t have time to tincture your foraged materials when they’re fresh, you may freeze or dry them to work with later. Remember that you’ll only need half as much dry material as you would frozen or fresh. Read more about making tinctures here >>
When plants are dormant (late fall through early spring), look to their roots. This is when root crops, whether used for food or medicine, are most plump and full of flavor. When a plant is in active growth, it draws on the stored nutrition in its roots, making them less tasty and potent. Many roots have intensly bitter flavors, including barberry (Berberis vulgaris), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), burdock (Arctium species), bitter dock (Rumex crispus), and mugwort (Artemisia species). Horehound leaves/stems (Marrubium vulgare) and turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) also fall into the bitter ingredient category.
Leaves and flowers are best gathered when they are young and fresh, before any browning or insect damage occurs. Bee balm leaves and flowers (Monarda species) and lavender buds (Lavendula species) are strongly-flavored spices, and both make interesting bitters ingredients.
Seeds should be foraged when they are fully ripe. Let them dry on the plant or in a dehydrator to eek out every last bit of flavor. Angelica seeds (Angelica archangelica) have a licorice flavor, and cow parsnip seeds Heracleum species) are uniquely aromatic and flavorful, with hints of citrus and anise.
Fruit should be harvested at its peak and is best preserved by drying or freezing. Try crabapples (Malus species) and cornelian cherries (Cornus kousa) for tartness, and elderberries (Sambucus species) for barely sweet, winy complexity.
[Try this Porcini Mushroom tincture recipe > from bar inspiration, Danny Whelan ]