Burdock

Burdock is a member of the Asteraceae family, along with daisies, dandelions, chamomile, Calendula, sunflowers, lettuce, artichokes and wormwood…amongst many others. Individuals with sensitivities to ragweed often also have sensitivities to other members of this family.I first had burdock as an inclusion in the macrobiotic diet, where it was cut into match sticks and stir fried quickly in mirin and shoyu alongside carrots before being steam finished to a soft almost limp texture. In the macrobiotic diet it is considered a valuable cleansing food. The Japanese call it gobo, and I had always thought of it as an asian vegetable.However, it grows wild in many places…including West Virginia.Despite its name, it is not related to Dock of the yellow or bitter varieties, though when young it looks very similar. I was introduced to it as a wild plant while weeding a plot of garden dedicated to rhubarb and asparagus, and began to dig it up in other places around the property at Evan’s Knob Farm as I found it.After researching it online a bit, I discovered that it is a nutrient dense food, rich in iron and potassium amongst other things, and that the roots can be boiled, sautéed or pickled to great effect. It is indeed considered a blood purifier in many folk medicine traditions, but it is a plant with many amazing uses.One article even mentioned using the leaves as a kind of miraculous treatment for burn victims due to a combination of qualities including pain relieving effects, the encouragement of cell regeneration, and antiseptic properties. Allegedly it will improve blood flow to injured areas while fighting infection and soothing the area. It is supposed to be anti inflammatory as well.The root tastes good, though is not particularly remarkable but the stem is said to taste like artichokes, another member of Asteraceae. It’s main virtue aside from being extremely nutrient dense and one of the first cleansing plants of spring is that it is plentiful and yields big vegetables to work with. You won’t be collecting a million little things for one meal since they tend towards being the size of a carrot. They are extremely convenient, and would roast up easily at a campfire in a survival or camping scenario.Burdock can be found alongside fields, in gardens and near paths, favoring disturbed soil that receives adequate moisture. The tap-root is insane, and while I’m sure you could dig it out with a trowel, I recommend obtaining a specialized weeding device from a garden supply store, which is long and tapered and forms a sort of trench around the root, making for a much easier extraction. Even with this tool however, it is unlikely you will get the whole root out. Be prepared for broken tap roots.My mode of preparation takes a cue from the cooking method for the Japanese kinpira I was initially familiar with, but cuts out the soy and sugars in favor of bone broth and garlic. It’s a good way to get a feel for the plant’s character without being scared off by a woody texture or overly bitter flavors.Wild burdock kinpira at 2 oclockWild Burdock Almost Kinpira2-5 Large wild burdock roots, cut into match sticks1/2-1 Tbsp lard1-3 Tbsp bone broth1/2 Tsp garlic powderSalt to tasteMethodSoak the Burdock roots in water and wash them well. Either scrub thoroughly with a vegetable brush as per macrobiotic preferences, in order to retain nutrients in outer skin, or skin with a vegetable peeler.Cut root into 2 inch match sticks, and melt lard in a cast iron skillet over high heat.Sautee burdock root until edges are beginning to get a little browned, and add bone broth and sprinkle garlic powder over all. Evenly distribute burdock throughout the pan, and cover with a lid to steam. Turn burner down to medium low.Check occasionally and stir. When the root seems to be soft and even a little limp, salt to taste, remove, and serve immediately.

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