What is Burdock?

At New Earth Farm, we love growing all sorts of vegetables – even some lesser known ones like kohlrabi, celeriac, and komatsuna (we promise those are real vegetables, and not celebrity baby names!). This year we decided to try a totally new crop for us – Burdock! Although it’s just now starting to gain some popularity in the US, it’s been a mainstay in Asian culture for a long time, and it’s no wonder why! It can be used as a vegetable in cooking, and is also popular in herbal products.

A Burdock plant can grow about 3-4 feet. Beneath the ground, you’ll find the its aromatic carrot-like roots which can grow as much as 3 feet deep into the ground (making them difficult to harvest).

A fun fact about burdock: It’s the catalyst for the invention of Velcro. In 1941, Swiss engineer George de Mestral was hiking in the Jura Mountains in Switzerland, when he noticed that his pants and his dog’s fur became covered in burdock seeds.

He was curious as to how these seeds stuck to his pants, and he discovered that they were covered in small interlocking hooks that can cling to fabric. He patented this idea, which eventually became Velcro, an invention used in countless products around the world.

A Superior Herb

Burdock is a wonderful herb with lots of superpowers. It’s rich in iron, magnesium, silicon and a variety of other minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Burdock has been used for many centuries to aid digestion, detoxify the liver, balance hormones, improve skin health, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure.

• Blood Pressure Maintenance: Burdock is a vasodilator, which is the ability to relax the blood vessels and arteries. It helps maintain blood pressure, helping to reduce your chances of developing heart disease. This benefit is mainly attributed to burdock’s generous potassium content.

• Relief From Digestive Problems: Burdock root is known for its benefits for proper digestive function. When added to salads, it provides digestive fiber, helping regulate bowel movement. Its other type of fiber, inulin, can help eliminate harmful microbes in your stomach, lowering your chances of diarrhea and other related conditions.

• Liver Detoxification: The compounds that give burdock its bitter taste can also benefit your liver. They can help stimulate bile production, helping your body flush away toxins quicker and easier.

• Maintaining a Healthy Immune System: Burdock root contains high levels of vitamins C and E, which are essential to maintaining a healthy immune system and eliminating free radicals. This helps reduce your chances of developing diseases, while supporting healthy cell growth at the same time.

How to Use Burdock

The Herbal Apothecary suggests that “fresh, young burdock root can be used like carrots in soups, stir-fries, and other dishes. In Japan, burdock is considered a premium vegetable and is often featured in fine restaurants as gobo root. When it’s grated, lightly steamed, and sprinkled with toasted sesame seed oil, you’d hardly recognize it as the tenacious backyard weed.”

Stir fry:  The root can be added to stir-fried vegetables for additional flavor and nutrients.
Raw: Burdock root can be eaten raw for a quick and nutritious snack. Be sure to clean it thoroughly first and sprinkle with a little Himalayan salt for flavor.
Soup: It can be used as a broth for vegetable soups.
Pickled: You can pickle burdock in apple cider vinegar to preserve its shelf life. Adding other herbs and spices to the mixture can give it more nutrients and flavor as well.

Try out one of these recipes to prepare burdock:

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