Burdock

November 21, 2012

 

Arctium spp.
Native range: Europe, Asia, and the Middle East
Invasive range: Throughout most of North America, Hawaii
Habitat: Roadside, fields, pastures
Description: Large arrow-shaped leaves grow close to the ground the first year. A tall stalk, six or seven feet tall, emerges, with purple flowers on second. Burrs, an inspiration for Velcro, provide seed dispersal. Large fleshy taproot.

Native to the Old World, burdock’s introduction to North America was noted in 1672 by John Josselyn, a sharp-eyed English visitor, who used Gerard’s Herbal: The Historie of Plants of 1597 as a field guide. In a pamphlet called New Englands Rarities Discovered, he listed “such Plants as have sprung up since the English Planted and kept Cattle in New-England,” including common burdock.

Burdock protects itself from predators by a layer of bitterness on the outside and by its thistles, so the early settlers introduced it for its medicinal properties, rather than as food. They went on to instruct the Indians in the making of a roasted-root tea to treat various ills. Among the Iroquois, young medicine men, after days of fasting, were known to drink the bitter infusion in hopes of retaining their spirit-quest visions.

BURDOCK.
Names. They are also called personata, bardona, appa major, great burdock, and clot-bur. It is so well known, even to the little boys who pull off the burs to throw and stick on each other, that I shall omit writing any description of it.
Place. It grows plentifully by ditches and water sides, and by highways, almost every where throughout this land.”
––Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, 1653

“Docks are very troublesome in our mowing ground; and, without care, they spread much by seed. They stifle the grass by their luxuriant broad leaves.”
––John Bartram, A Brief Account of Those Plants That Are Most Troublesome in Our Pastures and Fields, in Pennsylvania; Most of Which Were Brought from Europe, 1758

“Observation. Every body knows this coarse homely weed, wherever it has gained admittance,––but every body does not take care to keep it in due subjection. One of the earliest and surest evidences of slovenly negligence, about a farm-yard, is the prevalence of huge Bur-docks. The plant is considerably bitter; and the leaves are a favorite external application in fevers, head-ache, &c.”
––William Darlington, Agricultural Botany: An Enumeration and Description of Useful Plants and Weeds, Which Merit the Notice, or Require the Attention, of American Agriculturists, 1847

 

Basal rosette of first-year burdock.


 

Preparation

Roots
While first-year roots can be eaten raw, long slow-roasting will make them sweeter. In late summer and fall, the first-year roots, beneath the basal rosettes, can be scrubbed of their outer layer and boiled like potatoes. Here in Vermont, we harvested ours in mid-September and boiled them for about an hour before slicing them. (They can take longer to soften.) We tossed the julienned burdock with soy sauce and sesame seeds. It was simple and delicious.

The larger second-year plants move their energy from the roots to the breeding stalks and flowers are woody and inedible.

Stalks
Contributor Josey Schanen writes: “The flower stalks can be eaten like artichoke hearts and the leaf stalks like a celery-textured vegetable. The stalks are in season in late spring and early summer. The leaves are way too bitter to be worthwhile.”

Eric Garza of the University of Vermont prepares burdock roots by fermenting them, without fuel-intensive cooking. He describes his energy-postive approach, complete with a pie chart, here.

Shoots
Young shoots can be boiled until tender––longer if still bitter. Stalks taste of artichoke, a relative.
Second-year stems should be peeled before flowering and boiled 20 minutes. Seed sprouts edible.

Leaves
Young leaves, boiled, are edible but bitter. Leaf stems can be peeled and boiled. The leaves are large enough to wrap wild food in for campfire cooking, something most easily done if they are wilted by heat from the fire first.

Recipes

Gobo: Japanese Burdock

A popular Japanese dish using the taproot is kinpira gobo, julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, sake, and sesame oil.

Sushi rolls can be filled with kinpira gobo, which is often tinted to resemble carrot.

 

Dandelion and Burdock Beer
You can buy “Dandelion & Burdock” bottled in United Kingdom, with its roots in a medieval mead gathered from hedgerow plants. But why not make it yourself, from local invaders?

We’re looking forward to trying this recipe from the Guardian:

A couple of large burdock roots (about 150g)
A handful of dandelion roots (about 50g)
500g sugar (1.1 pounds)
2 tablespoons of black treacle
Juice of one lemon
Teaspoon of carragheen to help clarify the beer (optional)
Beer yeast
4.5 liters of water

Scrub and finely slice the roots then boil them with half the water (and the carragheen if using) for half an hour. Experience the aroma of an unpromising vegetable stew.

Take off the heat, add the remaining cold water, the sugar, treacle and lemon and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Strain the liquid into a clean fermenting bucket and cover.

When your brew reaches room temperature add the yeast, keep covered for up to a week then bottle in strong swing top bottles. Another week and it will be ready to drink, though it is well worth easing the top off of a bottle every now and then to check for potentially explosive levels of fizziness. Once ready it is a good idea to keep the bottles in the fridge to prevent further fermentation.

The flavor is mildly bitter and aromatic with a now pleasant hint of that vegetable stew.

    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Food May 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Tasty ate some thought it was perfect

    Reply

    Sally September 28, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Delicious! (the article and the food choice!) My Japanese cookbook spells it kimpira gobo, I think. We sauteed the julienned roots in oil and soy sauce, as yours does, but added lots and lots of freshly ground pepper. Yum!!

    Reply

    Leave a Comment

    Land

    Screen Shot 2012-11-18 at 8.02.21 AM

    Blue Plate Special: Sow Thistle

    It’s spring and time to weed. Sow thistle is a delicious invader found throughout the continent.


      EAT ME!
      800px-ChenopodiumAlbum001

      Lamb’s Quarters

      Lamb’s quarters was a popular spring tonic in the South—an early season edible green—but its leaves are good throughout the summer.       Chenopodium album Native range: Described by Linnaeus in 1753, this European native has been transferred throughout much of the world. Because its spread was rarely recorded, C. album‘s native and invasive [...]


        EAT ME!
        fennel01-l

        Wild Fennel

          Foeniculum vulgare Native range: Mediterranean, from Turkey west to Spain and Morocco Invasive range: Much of North and South America, South Africa, and parts of Oceania and the British Isles. Check out the USDA Plants Database to see if it’s found near you. Habitat: Roadsides, pastures, along the edge of wild habitats. Rocky shores [...]


          EAT ME!
          GarlicMustard1

          Garlic Mustard

            Alliaria petiolata Native range: Europe, Asia, Northwest Africa Invasive range: Much of the Lower 48, Alaska, and Canada. (See map.) Habitat: Moist, shaded soil of floodplains, forests, roadsides, edges of woods, and forest openings. Often dominant in disturbed areas. Description: Biennial herb. First-year plant has a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. [...]


            EAT ME!
            Wild_boar

            Wild Boar

            Did the domestic ancestors of today’s feral pigs streak off De Soto’s ship into the Florida scrub of their own accord in 1539? Or did they have to be urged to go find something to eat? All you need to…


              EAT ME!

              Sea

              Pterois volitans

              Lionfish

              Some say it started in 1992 in Miami when Hurricane Andrew smashed an aquarium tank. Don’t blame the weather, others say; in the mid-nineties, disappointed yet softhearted hobbyists…


                EAT ME!
                chuka wakame

                Wakame

                  Undaria pinnatifida Native range: Japan Sea Invasive range: Southern California, San Francisco Bay, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Argentina Habitat: Opportunistic seaweed, can be found on hard substrates including rocky reefs, pylons, buoys, boat hulls, and abalone and bivalve shells. Description: Golden brown seaweed, growing up to nine feet. Forms thick canopy. Reproductive sporophyll in [...]


                  EAT ME!
                  Hemigrapsus_sanguineus_big

                  Asian Shore Crab

                  The first sighting of the Asian shore crab in the United States was at Townsend Inlet, Cape May County, New Jersey, in 1988. Though the source is unknown . . .


                    EAT ME!
                    Periwinkles

                    Periwinkle

                    The common periwinkle, which first appeared in New England in the 1860s, is now found along the coast wherever there’s hard substrate–rocks, riprap, broken concrete, or docks–from Labrador to . . .


                      EAT ME!
                      Kleiner_Taschenkrebs_(Carcinus_maenas)

                      Green Crab

                      Since the green crab was first recorded off southern Massachusetts in 1817, it has been hard to ignore. A few minutes of rock-flipping in Maine can turn up dozens of them, brandishing their claws as they retreat…


                        EAT ME!

                        Fresh

                        Procambarus_clarkii_tank

                        Red Swamp Crayfish

                          Procambarus clarkii Native range: Red Swamp Crayfish, also known as Louisiana Crayfish, Crawdad, and Mudbug, is native to the south central United States and northeastern Mexico. Invasive range: Widely introduced throughout the United States including Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. Populations have [...]


                          EAT ME!
                          Distinguishing _ Channa argus

                          Northern Snakehead

                          His sister was ailing, and the man in Maryland remembered that, back home in Hong Kong, there was a fish that was considered a delicacy and a restorative. He would make a fish soup…


                            EAT ME!
                            bullfrog

                            Bullfrog

                            “They live in a wide variety of habitats, colonize new ones readily, and eat everything that fits into their mouths,” says Dr. Peter Moyle of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis…


                              EAT ME!
                              nutria-mugshot

                              Nutria

                              Nutria, also known as coypu and river rat, is native to temperate and subtropical South America. It has been introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa, mainly for fur farming. These voracious. . .


                                EAT ME!
                                Picture 1

                                Common Carp

                                For a bottom-feeder, what is the good life? The common carp isn’t very demanding: any body of water that’s sluggish and murky will do. One catching sewage or…


                                  EAT ME!

                                  Field Notes

                                  snakehead

                                  Harvest the Invaders: Incentives to Control Invasive Species

                                  Biologists Susan Pasko and Jason Goldberg discuss harvesting invaders in a new paper in Management of Biological Invasions. Incentive programs, such as bounties and encouraging recreational harvests, appear to be appropriate for certain species and regions. Among the many benefits is the development of an outreach program. “By engaging the public and encouraging harvest,” the [...]


                                    EAT ME!
                                    lionfish-690

                                    An App to Find Nemo

                                    “Creating a consumer market for invasive species is one of the most successful ways of combatting them. Like cupcakes or artisanal pickles, it can take a lot of marketing and hype to create a demand that matches the supply. The Connecticut chef Bun Lai’s invasive-species menu, which Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about in 2012, includes lionfish [...]


                                      EAT ME!
                                      alien-invaders-1-e28001970a39a68cef9eb977a632605781954ce2-s40-c85

                                      Hunting for Alien Bug and Seed Invaders at Baltimore’s Port

                                      The fight against invaders starts at seaports and airports across the world. Listen to the NPR story here.


                                        EAT ME!
                                        Screenshot 2014-05-21 20.35.10

                                        Attack of the Green Crabs

                                        Green crabs on the move in Maine and the Maritimes. Watch the movie here.


                                          EAT ME!
                                          Screenshot 2014-05-16 10.46.39

                                          Clean Boats, Clean Tournaments

                                          Help stop the spread of invasive species.


                                            EAT ME!

                                            Did you hear that, pal? She wants to borrow a carving knife. I never thought I’d end up a blue-plate special.

                                            Ralph Kramden, The Honeymooners

                                              Previous post:

                                              Next post: