Burdock Madness

Two years ago, I found some seeds in a tiny local Japanese market for burdock. I have cooked burdock for many years and find it is an interesting and delicious earthy root. I was first introduced to burdock as an ingredient in macrobiotic cooking over 20 years ago. A foreign idea at first, as I experimented with it, I found that its rich flavor is quite nourishing especially in the winter months. Ofer created a soup using grated burdock and carrots to make a broth. Add adding sesame oil at the end is the perfect finish! I’ve also found that it is lovely in stews made with butternut squash and in traditional Japanese sautes.

We innocently planted some seeds in the side yard hoping for a crop of fresh root and were disappointed when they didn’t sprout and grow. The following season, we tried again. This time, Ofer sprouted some in small pots and then transferred them to bigger pots and so on, until they were big enough to survive a transfer to the garden bed. This was definitely successful as we had numerous plants survive and grow to unprecedented heights!

 

What we didn’t know was that the burdock is bi-ennial. That means that it lives two years. To harvest the roots it has to be done in the fall of the first year. I found this out after they had started to bloom and were over 6 feet tall. The good news is, the flowers are quite beautiful and we still had some that were first year plants.

Where’s the root?

 

 

So we let the flowers finish blooming and took out the old plants. Now that its fall, we harvested the plants that were left. The roots are amazing, so deep and numerous. We haven’t had a chance to eat any yet, but the insides are a beautiful white color and they are crisp and fresh.

We’ve agreed that it is unnecessary to plant these seeds again. Between the seeds that dropped when the flowers went to seed, and the pieces of root that snapped off when we were taking out old plants, there are already new plants sprouting out of the soil.

Starting to dig

Still digging

Snapped off root

Sideways root

Burdock root revealed

Big burdock root

 


Seed Philosophy

 

amaranth flower

A delicious breakfast in the garden of freshly picked fruits was purely heavenly on this perfect fall morning. For those of you interested in getting some basil, pears or eggs, they are still available this week. Contact us to come by.

The other day I was in the garden collecting seeds from my plants. It’s a practice that I’m working on doing more regularly (and effectively). There’s a lot more to it than one would realize. In fact, the other day I opened a bag of sunflower seeds I’d collected. They had molded because I forgot to let them dry first – duh! Oh, well, I digress. There are more seeds to collect in the garden when I want them. If you look at the amaranth flower here you’ll see the little light colored spots. Each of those is a little black seed protected by an outer covering.  From each tiny seed a new plant will grow. There is such abundance in nature.

I found myself wandering back and forth between the plants, moving from picking produce to collecting seeds and back again. My mind is filled with two activities in the garden right now – harvesting the fruits ofmy labors (Oh, joy!) and planting seeds for the next season (exciting and creative!). I began musing about the way the garden symbolizes life. In Chinese medicine, the fall is a time for grieving, clearing, letting go. This process is best done both physically and emotionally. Physically, we can take this time to do a cleansing with broth (see a recipe in Salsa Summer post) or a watermelon fast. Emotionally letting go of what is in the past (whether it’s the bright days of summer or the  innocence of youth) allows the soil to be fertile for new experiences.

So, this combination of removing the old, dried up materials for composting and preparing the soil for planting (by adding last year’s compost and dry manure) is a beautiful reflection of the way life unfolds. It is good to do this regularly in life as well – by removing the old mental habits and planting the seeds of fresh thought. Come spring we will have sprouted a new attitude!