Exotic Crops: Burdock

2014 Spring final bed pic

I’ve learned a tremendous amount from other people’s experiences in growing crops. And so I thought it would be useful if I shared my own stories from this past year, especially because I grew a lot of different varieties on my small space. This year, as usual, I tried some crops that are uncommon in backyards.


Kinpira Gobou

Kinpira Gobou

To be clear when I say “Burdock” I mean what in Japanese is called Gobou, or ごぼう. I’ve heard there are American wild varieties of Burdock that just aren’t the same. In any case I’m thinking “tasty, shredded, with carrots, as an appetizer.”

I actually started my burdock late last spring, around May of 2013. It struggled, maybe because of poor soil in that particular spot, and never got that big. I left it there over winter, and nothing much happened. It was still small, still struggling. I was thinking of giving up and pulling it come May of 2014, when it mysteriously started to grow–a lot–and developed huge leaves. It was amazing.

Gobou 2013And so needless to say, I let it grow through summer, and the plants thrived. The roots also got very big, and by the time I went to dig it out, I’d estimate they were at least 2.5 feet deep, if not deeper. I didn’t have the energy or the space to thoroughly dig out all of the gobou roots, and so I got what I could.

This year I have a smaller gobou in the ground, Salada Musume from the Kitazawa seed company, and it initially did well. One interesting observation is that even though I’m struggling through an attack of Bagrada bug, which eats Brassica family plants (like Cabbage and Broccoli), my gobou plants have in the past gone completely untouched. Indeed, gobou are of a different plant family, Asteraceae. However the Salada Musume were perhaps too tasty to be passed up, and something ate them.

A learning here is that different varieties can have different rates of survival. So it is worth trying varieties and discovering which ones work best in your space.