Burdock root may not be common here, but it has long been popular in Asian cooking.
(Oregonian file photo)
Dirty, woody, long and gangly, burdock root may not be much to look at, but from root to fruit, burdock has many gifts to offer. The flavor of burdock root is earthy and, well, rooty, but with an intriguing blend of sweetness and bitterness that is similar to an artichoke, to which it is related. Its texture is both meaty and slightly crunchy with a pleasant chew. Rich in calcium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus, burdock is also touted as an immune booster, blood purifier and liver detoxifier -- a “superfood” by anyone’s standards.
Though mostly harvested for its root for both culinary and medicinal purposes, some enjoy the young, tender leaves and stalks as well. Even the seeds have a claim to fame. If you’ve ever collected burdock burrs on your socks after a stroll in the woods, it may not surprise you to learn that these burrs were the very inspiration for the invention of Velcro in the 1940s by Swiss inventor George de Mestral.
Though not as popular stateside, burdock root has long been celebrated in Asia, especially in Japan, where it can be found in simmered dishes, tempura and sushi rolls. Given that it can be a little fibrous, it is usually best cooked rather than raw. To prepare burdock root, give it a good scrub under running water, scrape it with a back of a knife or peel it entirely. If you want to keep it from discoloring once cut, put it in a bowl of acidulated water.
To enjoy the sweet, earthy flavor of burdock root, try adding it to soups, stews and stir-fries. It can also pickled, fried into chips or roasted along with other root vegetables. A popular Japanese dish, kinpira gobo, combines julienned burdock and carrot and glazes both with sugar, sake, mirin and soy. To enjoy its myriad medicinal properties, it can also be brewed into a distinctive tea.
– Mona Johnson,
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