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What the Heck Is Burdock?

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What the Heck Is Burdock?

Burdock is a flowering plant in the thistle family. Its carrot-like root, while not commonly eaten in the Old World, has become an increasingly popular food item in North America. The tradition of eating burdock root came to us by way of Japan, where it is called “gobo.” During the second half of the 20th Century, proponents of the macrobiotic diet advocated for burdock root, which is high in dietary fiber, as well as calcium, potassium, and amino acids.

One exception to the plant’s lukewarm reception in Europe is dandelion and burdock, a popular British soft drink.

Burdock root is crisp and sweet. Unlike many other root vegetables, which have a tendency to become mushy when cooked, burdock root will retain its crispness when braised or stir-fried.

In addition to the root, immature burdock flower stalks can also be eaten. These should be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear. The flavor of burdock stalks has been likened to artichokes, to which it is related.

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Because the burdock root closely resembles the toxic deadly nightshade plant, it is best avoid gathering burdock in the wild unless you know how to identify it.

Here are a few popular burdock root recipes to get you started:

Braised Burdock Root
1/2 lb burdock root
1/4 lb carrot
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon mirin
1/2 tbsp sake
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Lightly shave the burdock skin and shred burdock into very thin strips. Soak the strips in water for about 20 minutes. Drain well. Peel the carrot and cut it into short and thin strips. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan, and fry the burdock strips for a couple of minutes. Add the carrot strips. Add all seasonings to the pan and stir-fry well. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Dandelion and Burdock
2 1/2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon ground burdock root
1 teaspoon ground dandelion root
1” piece of ginger root, sliced
1 whole Star anise, crushed
1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Soda water

Place all of the ingredients, except for the sugar and soda water, into a large saucepan and boil for 20 minutes. Filter the mixture through a cheesecloth or dishtowel into a graduated serving jug. Stir in the sugar until dissolved and leave the mixture to cool. Add of 1 cup of soda water for every 1/2 cup of syrup and stir well. Serve over ice.

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