Questions About Psyllium, Roseroot, Goats Rue
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Joan Onerheim-Fetterly
Posted on: September 6, 2000

Could you please help me with the following;

1. I need to harvest the Indian psyllium and picked some last night. It was very dusty and cleaning it was a major problem, as was separating the seed. I ended up pouring water over the entire mess and salvaged some of the seeds that had sunk to the bottom of the pan. The seeds got the mucous around them but the end product was still full of dirt. Can I pick the seeds when they are still green and then dry them? This would give me clean seeds as I could wash the greens and then dry.

The mucilage is one of the key medicinal features of the seeds. Using water to clean the seeds will cause the mucilage to dissipate which may either damage the medicinal quality of the seeds. Wetting the seeds runs the risk of fungal contamination if they are not dried properly.

We have never heard of harvesting the seeds while still green. We have no idea if that diminishes the medicinal properties of the seeds.

Are you using sieves to separate the seeds from the dust? If the dust continues to adhere to the seeds after sieving, then it might be better to lay straw down (next year) between the rows to try to control the dust. In India and Pakistan, there is no special treatment done to the seeds to clean them as far as we know.

2. I had phoned earlier this year as I had trouble germinating the roseroot seeds, after being on hold forever, I hung up. Please give me some guidelines on a sure way to germinate this herb.

We apologize for the dropped call. We had problems with our phone system for over a month this summer before it was discovered that a faulty alarm system was responsible. It was an erratic problem that was difficult to pinpoint. Since we discovered the problem we have had no incidents of dropped calls.

Roseroot seeds germinate well for us at normal room temperature. There are some suggestions that they need a frost treatment before they will germinate, but we never found this to be true.

The seeds are so small that it is easy to plant them too deep. They should be sprinkled over the surface (in a seedbox containing sterilized sowing medium) and merely pressed in using a flat surface. The idea is that the pressing motion will be enough to cover the seeds.

Now, if the seeds are planted the way that we suggest, the main hazard the seedlings face is dehydration. The soil surface can dry out before you know it. We find that dehydration is the main reason for poor success with very fine seeds such as roseroot.

From the same lot of seeds we sold this spring, we grew our plants so we know that the seeds were good. We suggest that you try again.

3. The goat’s rue has grown well; what parts can I harvest and how?

The whole above ground herb is used. The herb is gathered as the plant reaching flowering. Dry the herb in the same manner as most herbs, in a well-ventilated, shaded location.

4. What book would you recommend that covers the proper methods of harvesting and usage of your herbs.

No one book covers all of the herbs that we carry, with the detail that satisfies everyone. That is why we carry many herb books. Probably, the one book with the most information is Deni Bown’s "Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses." The harvesting and drying information is, as is typical of most herb books, not specific to each herb (at least not beyond what parts are harvested), but there is good general information on harvesting and drying that can be adapted to each herb. The best thing about Bown’s book is that it covers the largest percentage of our herbs of any of the popular herb books. Its information is reliable too, which is something that not all herb books can claim.

It would be a great idea for you to enclose specific information on germination, harvesting and preparation of the herbs for each product you sell, especially for home users.

We often get asked to provide more information on growing and using our herbs. This is something that we try to improve upon each year, but it is a slow process. This year [2000] we added a lot more information to our catalogue on selected herbs. We added even more information to our website. But we need go a lot further.

One of the challenges we face is that if we put too much usage information on the labels of the medicinal herbs the government may begin to regard our products as drugs. No kidding! Over the years certain government officials (who admittedly have a poor understanding of the horticulture industry) have actually made statements to that effect.

I am very pleased with your products, and always look forward to the new season.

Last year, I ordered a French tarragon plant, when it came (quite late) I couldn’t believe how small it was, for the price!!! It is finally growing but I was disappointed in the size.

Occasionally, this happens. We try to make sure that all our plants go out with a root ball that fully fills the pot and with ample foliage. Sometimes, depending on the timing of our production and on order volume, some plants go out without a fully grown root ball. We try to make sure that these plants still have a good enough root system to survive shipping and transplanting to the garden.

Overall, we have improved the quality of our plants over the past few years. The biggest area of improvement is reducing the incidence of plant pests without the use of harmful chemicals. This requires highly dedicated staff to scout for pests and to deal with them quickly before they become a problem and spread through the greenhouses.

Still, quality is a never ending job, and we remain dedicated to improving our plant quality.

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