Chinese Herbs Update

I walked around the garden the other day specifically to check on my test plantings of Chinese herbs. I have so many now! The test plantings over the past couple years have given me a much clearer picture of what will thrive here and what won’t. There are just so many plants to try, still.


Ashwagandha grows very well here. This fall I will dig my first roots and find out what the average yield/plant will be. The ashwagandha also attracts leaf-footed bugs like crazy but they don’t seem to hurt it. This weekend I’ll be harvesting berries from the strongest-looking plants. Now that I know it grows well, I have to find a buyer.


I am in the middle of take my third cutting of this stand of mugwort since I planted it exactly a year ago. So, three cuttings a year seems to be pretty darn good return on a plant that requires no irrigation or fertilizer once established. The investment on this crop is time and labor- the dried mugwort has to age for three years before I grind and sift it into floss for moxa.


See the delicate purple flower in the middle of all those weeds? That’s Platycodon grandiflorus, jie geng, and it’s taken me a while to figure out how it wants to grow. Jie geng doesn’t like to be messed with around the roots, it wants water, and prefers dappled shade. The roots are surprisingly sturdy- several times these plants have died back to the ground and then come up again, undaunted. I’m looking forward to digging up these roots in the fall.

new herbs

These are two precious new additions to my trial herb beds- Alpinia katsumadai (the seeds of which are Cao Dou Kou) and Cucurma Wenyujin (Wen yu jin). Recently I visited Tom Wood, a noted ginger taxonomist, breeder, and collector, and he sold me both of these- he was using them for flower breeding! The ginger, galangal, and turmeric are growing so well that I’m sure these will grow well, too. I found this interesting article on the confusion in cucurma botanical medicines. Once I find a good place I’ll be ordering the last of the cucurmas- Zedoary.


This is the final experiment for this year, and possibly the last experimental crop on this property… by Spring we’ll have enough of the farm cleared that I can start planting out there. This is Astragalus (huang qi) which I bought from Mountain Gardens in July. Astragalus is a sought-after herb right now and I have high hopes that it will like our deep sandy soil.

Other successes: Acyranthes bidentata (niu xi), Eclipta prostrata (bringhraj), Belamcanda chinensis (she gan)

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