Common Mullein was introduced to Virginia from Europe many years ago. It grows quickly and tends to crowd out many of our native plants. In the Methow Valley, mullein grows in open, sunny areas where the ground has been disturbed. It is easily recognized by its tall flower spikes, which can grow upwards of 6-10 feet tall.
Mullein lives for two years. In its first year, this plant grows a rosette, but no flower stalk. The flower stalk grows during the second year and then the plant dies. The rosette leaves are large and soft, comparable to felt. Common Mullein flowers are yellow with five petals, and bloom a few at a time from June until September.
Mullein produce an enormous number of seeds. One mullein plant may make over 100,000 seeds in a year. Seeds can survive almost any conditions and can last up to 100 years. Since mullein can't grow in shade, the seeds can lay in the soil, waiting until plants around them die or are removed.
Only a few animals use mullein for food. Certain species of thrips, stinkbugs, weevils, and leaf bugs will eat mullein leaves; but these are insects which were brought over from Europe. Short-horned Grasshoppers, such as the Differential Grasshopper, will also eat leaves. American Goldfinches, Indigo Buntings, and a few other birds eat mullein seeds.
- 1/2-gallon glass canning jar with lid
- 1 quart Vodka
- 2 T. Honey
- Cheesecloth (a piece large enough to cover the colander)
- 1 quart canning jar with lid
- Harvest 2 quarts of mullein stems and flowers.
- Shake the leaves free of any dust or insects. It is not necessary to wash your harvest unless it is covered with dirt.
- Break the stems into pieces and place them loosely into the canning jar. Fill the jar halfway with herbs.
- Pour one quart Vodka into the jar.
- Add honey to a quart of water and mix this in with the alcohol.
- Put the cap on the jar and shake it a little to allow the herbs to settle into the liquid. The solution should completely covers the herbs. Any herbs that are exposed to air during the tincturing process will eventually spoil and destroy the tincture.
- Tightly cap the jar and label with the date. Place the jar in a cool, dry location for at least 3 weeks. The tincture will strengthen the longer it sits. Check on the herbs every couple of days and give the jar a turn to prevent settling.
- Place a colander over a pot and line with cheesecloth.
- Pour the tincture into the cheesecloth. Use a small bit of water to rinse the remaining herb out of the jar.
- Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and squeeze the liquid from the herbs, wrenching as much liquid out as you can.
- Discard the mullein to the compost pile and pour the new tincture into a clean glass jar for future use.