Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Growing Burdock

  • Greater Burdock is rather tall, reaching as much as 2 metres. 
  • It has large, leaves and the flowers are purple and grouped in clusters. They appear in mid-summer, from July to September, but are of little interest to the gardener other than avoiding seed migration.
  • The flower heads are made out of many bracts, each curving to form a hook, allowing them to be carried long distances on the fur of animals. 
  • The fleshy tap-root can grow up to 1m long.
  • It prefers a fresh, worked soil, rich in humus, and should be positioned in full sunlight. 
  • Burdock is very reactive to nitrogen fertilizer, but will also need phosphorus for strong root growth. 
  • When acquiring your seed, ensure that it is Arctium lappa  “Takinogawa” and not one of the associated varieties. 
  • Sow from early spring on into mid-summer.
  • A week before sowing apply a fertilizer, a fish based fertilizer should provide a high nitrogen feed.
  • Sow the burdock seeds about 7mm (¼ “) deep and firm down the row.
  • Burdock seeds germinate in 1 to 2 weeks. 
  • Keep weeded and thin to about 10cm (4in) apart. 
  • The reason for keeping the plants so close together is that it makes the roots grow long and thin, which is desirable, and it lessens the labour involved in digging, as more roots are dug out of a smaller space.
  • Protect the emerging seedlings from slugs and snails, which find the early seedling a great delicacy.
  • This crop is capable of holding its own against any weeds, but they should be removed at regular intervals to avoid the wastage of good minerals to a weed crop.
  • The plant prefers regular watering, so k
  • eep moist, and avoid drying out during long drought spells.
  • Once established, feed with a liquid feed, such as Miracle Gro on a regular basis to maximise root growth.
  • Moderate harvest of the leaves throughout the season will not deter root development.
  • The burdock roots are ready to harvest after two to four months. 
  • You don’t have to wait until the tops are dormant, but of course to obtain the largest possible roots (which can weigh up to two pounds), then harvest after the tops die back in the autumn. 
  • Digging the roots can be difficult, unless the soil is a deep sandy loam. 
  • One technique is to trench down the side of the row with a spade, then push the spade in behind the roots and lever them into the trench, being careful not to break them. Also be careful not to break the spade. (This is the part where you are glad you planted them closely together.)
  •  Dig and wash the roots and then split them down the length. 
  • A large root should be split into at least 4 pieces. 
  • Dry the burdock root pieces on screens in a dark, airy location or use a vegetable/fruit dehydrator.
  •  When the pieces snap and are internally dry, they may be ground up to make a tincture or stored in plastic bags or glass jars for later use.
  • Very young roots can be eaten raw, but older roots are usually cooked. 
  • Cut root into slivers and stir-fry. 
  • Young leaves and stalks are eaten raw or cooked. 
  • Seeds can be sprouted like bean sprouts; nothing goes to waste with this plant.

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