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Toraji (Balloon Flowers)

Toraji, as it is known in Japan, is a plant with many names and uses. It's native to East Asia, and while it is commonly known as Doraji in Korea, it is known in the West as Balloon Flowers or Chinese Bellflower. It's a beautiful flowering herb, typically with large blue flowers, though some varieties have pink, purple, or white flowers (the white ones are the most common in Korea). The roots are commonly used as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments in different parts of East Asia, but Toraji is a beautiful addition to your garden just for the flowers, and it is also used in various delicious recipes.

  • Toraji: Platycodon grandiflorus
  • Perennial
  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil should be neutral or slightly acidic (5.5 to 7.5 ph)
  • Well prepared soil, with good fertility, loamy to sandy (not dense or clay)
  • Climate Zones 3-8

Toraji is grown easily from seeds. These can be started inside early, and the seedlings planted after the last frost. They can be seeded directly into the garden too! Just spread the Balloon Flower seeds directly over some slightly moist soil. Seeds should be planted after the last frost in early spring or any time in late spring or summer. Later planting will allow the plant to grow successfully, but it likely won't flower until the next year.

This is a perennial plant, so it will continue to grow year after year. It can grow up to 3 feet tall. Keeping the plant trimmed will keep it flowering throughout the summer months. This plant prefers generally drier soil, so don't over-water, and if the ground becomes too moist, dry out the soil a bit by adding some sand. To harvest the seeds, just wait until the flowers wilt in the fall. Collect the brown seed pods once they have started to dry. Keep the seed pods in a bag, since once these break open, several hundred seeds will spill out. The seeds should be stored in a cool dry place until ready to plant.

Korean Spicy Bellflower Root Side Dish
Doraji-muchim 도라지무침

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz of dried Doraji roots
  • ¼ cup hot pepper paste
  • 3 tbs. gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. rice syrup
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbs. white vinegar
  • 2 green onions well chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Instructions:

  1. Overnight, soak dried doraji roots in cold water until soft.
  2. Drain water and work in 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. This will remove the bitterness.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine pepper paste, gochugaru, rice syrup, soy sauce, kosher salt, sugar, vinegar, garlic, green onion, and toasted sesame oil.
  4. Add doraji roots and mix.
  5. For a finishing touch, sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  6. Serve accompanied by rice.

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