April 24, 2012

Wild Edible Plants: Burdock Root

Wild Edible Plants: Burdock Root

Today I went out for a walk with a friend to dig up some Burdock Root, as well as pick a few leaves. Burdock Root is edible as well as contains medicinal properties.  If you ever had a dog that returned home one day covered in thorny prickly balls, then somewhere in your neighborhood is Burdock, which is usually considered as an invasive weed that grows year after year.

Burdock is any of a group of biennial thistles in the genus Arctium, family Asteraceae. Native to the Old World, several species have been widely introduced worldwide

Burdock Root is a perfect survival food as it is easily identifiable, grows in abundance in various regions all over the world and it serves as more than just an edible plant since it also has medicinal properties.  Burdock Root contains significant amounts of calcium, potassium, and amino acids.  Burdock is also a good source for protein, carbohydrate, vitamins A, C, B1, E, K and folate, minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphoros. In Japan, Burdock Root is very popular and is called Gobo.

The root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor with a little muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking julienned/shredded roots in water for five to ten minutes. The harshness shows excellent harmonization with pork in miso soup and takikomi gohan (a Japanese-style pilaf).

A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobō, julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and/or sake, and sesame oil.

Folk herbalists consider dried burdock to be a diuretic, diaphoretic, and a blood purifying agent. Various parts are used to prevent baldness and to treat rheumatoid arthritis, skin infections, acne, boils, bites, eczema, herpes, impetigo, rashes, ringworm, sore throat, sciatica, poison ivy and poison oak, as a tonic, diuretic and mild laxative, to stimulate bile production and to induce sweating. The seeds of greater burdock are used in traditional Chinese medicine, under the name niubangzi.  Burdock is a traditional medicinal herb that is used for many ailments. Burdock root oil extract, also called Bur oil, is currently used in Europe under the belief that it is a useful scalp treatment. Modern studies indicate that burdock root oil extract is rich in phytosterols and essential fatty acids (including rare long-chain EFAs).  Burdock leaves are used by some burn care workers for pain management and to speed healing time in natural burn treatment. Burn care workers hold that it eases dressing changes and appears to impede bacterial growth on the wound site and that it also provides a great moisture barrier.

When harvesting Burdock root, make sure that you gather it only from first year plants. Second year Burdock plants are past its edibility prime and is not recommended for consumption.  You'll know a first year plant due to its lack of tall stalks, flowers and thorny burrs.   To harvest the roots, locate the center stem and dig straight down, taking your time so as not to chop the roots with your digging tool.  The roots can be very long, so, dig as far as you can in order to harvest as much root as you need.

Wash and then peel and slice as you would a carrot.  Next, boil the roots for approximately 30 minutes and they're now ready for eating.  You can eat them as is, or season them with butter and salt.  100 grams of Burdock root contains 1.5g protein, and 13.7g of carbohydrate..   For the leaves, cut out the center stalk from the leaf then cut or chop the leaves and boil for about 15 minutes.

Burdock Root Recipes

Buy 1lb cut Burdock Root
Buy 1lb Cut Burdock Root
Gobo: Stir-Fried Burdock And Carrots With Sesame And Soy.

2 cups prepared burdock
2 cups prepared carrots
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsps. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

  1.  Prepare the burdock and carrots in the same way, by washing and scraping the outer skin (don't peel), then cut into matchstick-sized pieces. As you're cutting the burdock, throw the pieces into a bowl of cold water to prevent them from turning brown in the air.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the vegetable oil and sesame oil together. When it's hot, sprinkle in the sesame seeds and cook, stirring, for about a minute.
  3. Drain the burdock and add it and the carrots to the pan. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for about five to seven minutes.
  4. Add soy sauce and continue stir-frying for about ten minutes. The burdock will change color from milky white to shiny gray/brown. It will be crisp, crunchy, earthy, and delicious. 
 Brown Rice With Burdock And Mushrooms

4 medium shiitake
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (optional)
1 medium burdock root (about 1/4 pound)
Cold, salted water for soaking burdock root
2 cups cold water for cooking rice
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1 small carrot and/or parsnip, sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Cut shiitake caps into thin strips.
  2. Scrub burdock and whittle it off in slivers, placing them in cold salted water as you proceed. Soak five minutes. Drain burdock and place in a heavy ovenproof pan with 2 cups water, optional oil, mushrooms, rice, carrot, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from the stove and cover. Bake in a 350 degrees F oven 45 minutes. Let stand 15-30 minutes. Uncover, fluff, and serve.
Burdock Sauce
3/4 cup finely chopped burdock root *
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup apple vinegar cider
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

1. Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce heat.
2. Add the chopped burdock root to the vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Process in a blender or food processor until smooth.
4. Add the parsley, and yogurt or sour cream and blend well.Serve over warm potatoes, roasted chicken, or steamed vegetables.

Even though burdock root is loaded with nutrients, it may trigger certain side effects. Burdock root can cause allergy reaction to those who are already sensitive to daises, chrysanthemums, or ragweed. As a diuretic, it is also not recommended for people who are suffering from dehydration. Pregnant women should also avoid burdock root as it may cause uterus stimulation. Since burdock root may also affect blood sugar level, people on diabetic medication should also avoid it.

Books on Wild Edible Plants

Foraging New England: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Foods and Medicinal Plants from Maine to Connecticut If you're interested in wild edible plants, it is good to have a book on the subject that you can take with you out into the woods, trails, etc so that you can identify the plants you encounter.  Not all plants grow in all areas, so, you should find one specific for your region.  Since I am in New England, I use Tom Seymour's Foraging New England: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Foods and Medicinal Plants from Maine to Connecticut, which is available from Amazon.  When you buy from Amazon using my link, I earn a 4% commission which helps me out with my bills and expenses, so, do please use my link. It's appreciated.

Since I also created a video for YouTube on Burdock Root which also briefly included some mention of Mullein, much of which I encountered today on my hike, I am including some brief information on Mullein in this post as well.


Buy 2oz cut Mullein
Buy 2oz cut Mullein
Mullein is a biennial that grows only leaves the first year and then flowers and dies the second year. During the first year, it can produce 18-inch long wooly gray leaves that form a bushel basket-size rosette.

The common mullein is not native to the United States. It’s an introduced weed from Eurasia. It was probably introduced during colonial times as a medicinal herb. Its leaves have been used as a wrapper – kind of a botanical version of Saran Wrap to keep food from spoiling.

The monks of the Middle Ages grew mullein for a number of ailments, especially those associated with coughs and congestion. One of its common names was "bullocks lungwort," taken from a common home cure used to treat cattle with coughs and pneumonia. Sap from the crushed leaves of the plant is said to alleviate the pain of insect bites. Research indicates some of the uses as analgesic, antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antioxidant, antiviral, bacteristat, cardio-depressant, estrogenic, fungicide, hypnotic, sedative and pesticide are valid.  Mullein can also be used for dye, insecticide, insulation, lighting, tinder, as well as for a wick.   I will be going into more detail on the uses of Mullein in a future video and post which will include identification, harvest and preparation, etc.

Watch my video on Burdock harvesting, preparation and cooking:

Also check out my video SHTF WROL Cooking Wild Edible Plants - Dandelion Greens

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