Wednesday, March 28, 2012

1lb 4oz of Goodness

Oh boy, I can't even begin to tell you how good it felt to gather these items together last Saturday, to draw my thumb across the blade of my bill hook to check for sharpness and then decide it could use a couple of passes from the stone. I opened and closed the secateurs and looked for signs of rust and wear. It all got packed up into my bike basket.

It felt so good to retrace the familiar streets and paths to the garden, noticing all the changes since I last passed in December. A new house is being built here, renovations are finished on that one there, up ahead is a stump where a tree used to be....

And wow, did it ever feel good to walk onto my plots and take it all in. I had visited a couple of times in the winter and paid a brief visit the other week when I was dog sitting, but this time I was here to observe, plan and work.

The work involved cleaning up and prepping some beds that I didn't get around to last fall. The observations I'll post about next time. But today I wanted to share with you my first harvest of the season.

Last spring I planted Japanese gobo, which is the cultivated version of the wild burdock that grows all around. It produces a larger root than the wild version, and when planted in a nicely prepared garden bed, is much easier to dig up than from the compacted, clayey soils it normally grows in, in this area.

Burdock is a biennial, which means that the first year's growth is all about gathering and storing energy in the root, and the second year is all about taking that stored energy to produce a flowering stalk that goes to seed and then the whole plant dies. The key to harvesting the root is to get it at its nutritional peak, before it spends the energy in flowering. The ideal time to harvest many roots, especially those containing inulin, like burdock does, is in the fall after that season's leafy growth has died back. If you miss the fall harvest, like I did, you can still harvest in the early spring before the new growth really starts going.

With the recent unusual heat wave, I suspected my gobo might be already growing and sure enough, there were new leaves uncurling and spreading open to the sun. So I grabbed my pitchfork and lifted all but two of the plants out of the soil (the two left I will let go to seed for saving.) One root was a good 3 inches across and maybe 7 or 8 long, the others a respectable 1 inch thick and of a goodly length. All were certainly larger than anything I've managed to wrestle out of the ground in the wild, and they had that delicious earthy, rooty smell that I love.

After finishing my chores for the day, I got back on my bike and took my bounty home to be well scrubbed and chopped and destined for the dehydrator.

I like to weigh all my garden harvests and it felt so darn good to take the kitchen scale off the shelf and weigh my very first garden harvest of the year.

1lb 4oz. 1lb and 4oz raised up from a wee seed, nurtured for nearly a year, carefully processed and stored and ready to provide nourishment and healing.

This small harvest is just a taste of all that is yet to come, and that feels really, really good.

No comments: