Osha Root and Other Herbs in Colorado
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Margaret Barton
Posted on: February 22, 2007

We live at 7,800 elevation in Colorado and are interested in growing several varieties of herbs to sell. I know osha does well but need more information on how to cultivate and harvest. Do you know of other herbs you would recommend for our climate that are marketable?

Osha Root (Ligusticum porteri) is a Native American perennial herb and is related to Lovage and a member of the Parsley family. Osha grows above 7,000 feet throughout the entire Rocky Mountain range from Mexico to Canada.

The plant stands about two or three feet in height and possesses the characteristic umbel (umbrella) flower shape and leaves that look a little like parsley. It can be stubborn and strong, often growing in aspen groves among their roots, making digging very difficult.

Osha does not like to be domesticated, and is virtually impossible to grow under cultivation. Because the plants do not reproduce freely, most, if not all, of the commercially available Osha is taken from the wild; and, because the root is the part of the plant taken, widespread harvesting will diminish availability unless the harvesting is done very carefully.

It inhabits dry, upland meadows and ravines out West in the southern Rocky Mountains. A common plant, Osha Root often grows in thick, extensive patches and prefers moist, fertile ground. It has fern-like leaves that are two-toned spotted green, especially when young. In the autumn, the leaves turn golden. This plant is already facing extinction in the wild.

It is one of the few herbs that can be dried in the sun without harm and will last for years in the dried form. It will not rot because of the potent antibacterial and antiviral substances in the root.

Your altitude and weather limit the diversity of options which could be cultivated into cash crops. The floral trade might offer better markets for wild-crafted forest products. If you can find open meadows (2 to 5 acre slips) at that altitude, some herbs can be grown as dried floral products.

I have written an article addressing this kind of market and cultivation needs.

http://www.nwbotanicals.org/oak/altagri/floraltrade.htm

I can also build you a working business plan (farm plan) with further information.

http://www.nwbotanicals.org/oak/oakservice.htm

Crop selections might begin with local and regional buyers

http://www.nwbotanicals.org/oak/altagri/nitche.htm

and then

http://www.nwbotanicals.org/oak/altagri/marketingrsrc.htm

Of course, other resources would include my books "The Potential of Herbs As A Cash Crop," and "Native Plants Of Commercial Importance." Both are available from Richters of Canada, Acres, USA, or directly from me. Once you have decided on a business plan, be sure to also read "Getting Started," found at www.herbfarminfo.com

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