Burdock, Okinawa Long (Organic)

Arctium lappa.

A variety originating in Okinawa, an island of southern Japan. The people of Okinawa are known for their long lives and health, which burdock is believed to play a part. Often cooked in soups or pickled, it is known for its healing properties and high vitamin content. The burdock root’s ability to penetrate heavy clay subsoil can help improve drainage, but be careful – once burdock is in your garden, it is difficult to get it out. Given to The Seed Ambassadors Project in 2006 by the proprietors of Urtegartneriet, a small Danish biodynamic seed company.

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Usually direct sown in the spring and dug in the fall before frost or mud.  Burdock needs good deep soil to form its characteristic high quality roots. Only moderate fertility and water is needed, however too much neglect will give you low quality roots. You may dig them up in the spring of their second year before the plants begin to bolt, as the roots can get woody.  In Japan, another method is to overwinter tiny plants with roots as thin as a pencil. This practice prevents them from bolting in the spring for an early summer harvest.

Burdock is a biennial. A weedy native of Europe and Asia, it is a common garden weed in many areas. Seed saving is only recommended if you really love burdock, because the seeds spread rampantly when ripe. Burduck seed heads love to hitch hike with the use of their burrs. This was the legendary inspiration for velcro.  If you do decide to save seed, be careful to only let one variety flower at a time and to pull up and wild burdock before is flowers as it will cross and contaminate your special burdock with wild traits such as toughness and bitterness. Burdock is one of the easiest plants to save seed from. When the seed heads turn brown the seeds fall out easily and even easier when crushed. Be careful and wear gloves as the fuzz on the seed head is very irritating to the skin and eyes.

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