I decided to create bite-size info on the medicinal benefits of some of the herbs whose seeds are now listed on landscapingrevolution.com.
First I thought I'd cover three Japanese herbs in one post, but that exceeded the byte quota for bites!
Let's start with the simplest one: burdock. It is actually used as a medicine and food in many, many countries. As the name suggests, this member of the thistle family has figured out how to be relocated by sticking to fur and clothing. While the leaves are just unbelievably bitter, the root is quite bland, totally Zen-like in its simplicity. In Japan, burdock is called gobo and everyone knows how to prepare it.
I live in a small town, 7000 people, but it boasts a rather remarkable grocery store for such a tiny place. Burdock in easily found in the Oriental foods section, both fresh and frozen.
Basically, anything you can do with a carrot, you can also do with burdock. In short, you can stir fry, add it to casseroles, bake, roast, barbeque, or put it into muffins or cakes. However, you can also make cutlets, pancakes, and grain coffee. So, why bother if the taste is not exciting? Well, someone asked me once what the common denominator of my cancer tonics was. I thought it was phytolacca, but I was wrong. Burdock aced out poke root by a skosh. More interestingly, it is in the Hildegard of Bingen duckweed elixir, the Essiac formula, the Hoxsey Elixir, and well countless other formulas for detoxification. Moreover, unlike many detoxifying herbs, burdock works mainly by absorbing toxins so its nutritive properties are not compromised.
What did I just say? Most detoxifying herbs are bitter. The alkaloids are pacifying to acids, but burdock works a bit more like a sponge. It has a lot of mucilage and it collects the toxins and stimulates their elimination in the same way that a high fiber diet helps peristalsis. Now, did I say it clearly?
My mind is going so fast these days that I can hardly tame my fingers to hit keys in a sequence.
Last year a gracious customer invited me to take ten burdock seeds out of her seed order before mailing it. Experimental as always, I built a straw bale "plot" with 1 x 4 planks on top. That allowed me to put 3" of planting soil on top of the straw. All ten seeds germinated beautifully and there were two reasons for the straw bales. First, the animal communicator and I were not 100% certain that the moles had agreed to relocate. It seemed like they left, but their last words were, "If we don't like the greenbelt behind the fence, we'll come back." I guess they didn't like the greenbelt. They were gone for a while but I am obviously not just gardening but running a wildlife restaurant here. The deer ate my pretty pink Nishiki willows and then the chaste trees, the rabbits ate my artemisia, and something found my carrots, not sure who yet. I plan to accommodate everyone this year, including a special distraction for grasshoppers and those who are getting to the kale before me.
Anyway, the idea was to grow the burdock above the space inhabited by underground critters. However, the second motivation was easy harvesting. Knock the bales apart and pick up the roots without digging. Contrary to what most herb books say, the roots are edible within 20 weeks of planting. The leaves and hollow stalks are also edible.
Now, if you want to see my straw bale plot and read more, go to:
Burdock is regarded by some as a longevity herb, but whether it is or isn't, what is important about it is that it is nutritious and tonifying. It has trace minerals and vitamins and if you choose not to eat the leaves (and curl your eyelids), you will have some lovely material for mulching because the leaves can be huge. As for the roots, they can be quite long but they tend to be narrow so even if older and bigger, they are longer, not fatter, must be a message there. This is a wonderful food and herb for diabetics as well as people whose are weak or convalescing.