Cedar Isle Farm is a small, family-run farm in Seabird Isle in Agassiz, BC. It is the passion project of Yoshi, Jim, Diane, and their dog Bella who oversee it. They attend to this place and the many animals that live on it in the lush grassland of the valley, overseen by snow-capped Mount Cheam in the distance.
Cedar Isle is the only farm in the province to grow organic grains like oats, wheat, and rye. It is a beautiful place that I am grateful to be able to visit in different seasons. The farm maintains such a serene pace, and while it is continually productive, I always find great peace there.
This is where Yoshi grows, among many other winter vegetables, his burdock. Yoshi grows the burdock from seeds planted in May. The plants appear to mature modestly above ground over the next 6 months, while underground their strong roots push deep into the earth, forming an impressive network of wandering tentacles. When I went out to the farm to assist Yoshi with the harvest I recognized that it was the vitality of his burdock that made it so incredibly difficult to uproot. We had to carefully loosen the ground with an excavator before we could approach the roots and attempt to dig them out with hand tools.
“This is why not many farmers want to grow burdock,” Yoshi tells me, “not many farmers want to be kneeling on the ground digging for hours, especially when it is raining.” When we eventually knelt down on the broken ground I was amazed at how dark and rich the soil looked, teeming with long earthworms. Carefully, we dug around the long, dense roots – encountering the burdock root in the black soil is like discovering a silvery jewel woven into the ground. Unearthing them, we brush them clean, revealing something so striking and odd: a bit like ginseng, and a bit like a bazaar many-limbed statue.
Next Yoshi sprays the burdock root with water. It’s amazing to see the unearthing continue, revealing more of the burdock’s silver, iridescent skin. After they are well rinsed he slices the roots into thin pieces, laying the pieces out to rest in a dehydrator for about twelve hours.
It is no surprise that the tea that Yoshi’s burdock yields is extremely vital. It is vibrant and nutritive, with savoury qualities like freshly picked vegetables. The dusty aroma of it is compelling, and the richness of the tea is very soothing. While it can be enjoyed as a sensory experience alone, burdock tea is often valued for its healing properties. Across many cultures it is known to restore balance in the body, ease processes of transformation, especially in the liver, and clear excess heat or toxicity. Yoshi’s burdock is generous and, having witnessed the work that goes into growing, harvesting, and preparing it – I know it to be very precious. I am thrilled to be able to offer this tea.
Photos by May Yi Then