Traditional and Modern Use of Burdock

I walked the valley this morning, watching as the mist slowly dispersed.

I love the quiet of walking in mist, it brings back memories of walking after a snow-storm.

Even though I am currently living in a city, I have finally after many months (most of which I have been on the road teaching) settled on my gathering grounds.

With Autumn having taken hold, I feel a sense to gather wild roots.

Note: It is illegal to dig up roots without landowner’s consent.

One of of my favourite wild roots is Burdock. Both Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa) and Lesser Burdock (Arctium minor) make for fantastic eating.

No grunt food here, more delicious gourmet grub!

The American forager Samuel Thayer describes burdock as…

“an escaped domestic vegetable, still grown widely in Japan where it was first cultivated thousands of years ago”.

To quote Gerard, it was once considered an acceptable edible plant in Britain…

“the staike of the clotburre before the burres come forth, the rinde peelld off, being eaten raw with salt and pepper, or boyled in the broth of fat meate, is pleasant to be eaten.”

But there is some controversy as to whether the leaf stalk can actually be eaten, which I discuss in my burdock video below. It was originally posted back in 2012.

Burdock has largely fallen out of use as a vegetable in Western cuisine, but it remains popular in Asian cooking in Japan and China.

The Japanese variety, called gobo or Japanese burdock, is used in many dishes. The roots are thinly sliced and tossed like radishes in salads, and stir-fried, sautéed, or roasted for soups, stews and tofu meals.

Burdock is one of the ingredients of tekka, a miso-based condiment.

The stems and roots of the plant can be pickled for storage and later use in cooking.

The roots are also roasted to make burdock ‘coffee’ or pounded to make pancakes.

Its importance as a vegetable in Japan is perhaps reflected in its wide variety of cultivars, including mitoya shirohada, nongya, sakigake, takinogawa long and watanabe early, each yielding succulent roots of varying flavour.

But the roots aren’t the only parts of Burdock that are edible, the leaf stalk and flowering stems also make for excellent eating.

Burdock Root Recipes

4 thoughts on “Traditional and Modern Use of Burdock

  1. Great article, thank you. In your Edible Burdock Root Recipe, you advise to only gather burdock from the first year. In the video, you indicate that spring of the second year is also a good time. Which is right? Thanks, Vincent

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