Sections

3.1.18

Wild Thing: Burdock

Arctium lappa.

Fae Kontje-Gibbs

Burdock wasn’t always wild. An escaped domestic vegetable from Japan, it’s widely grown and eaten there today. But while it’s spread throughout Europe and North America, it hasn’t exactly been embraced as a delicacy. The British gave it a go, sipping it in the form of dandelion-burdock soda or sautéing it with carrots. Still, even they aren’t about to turn bangers and burdock into the next big thing. Thankfully, what burdock lacks in taste, it makes up for in benefits. It’s said to purify the blood, kill germs, reduce fevers, even increase sex drive. To harvest its roots – the most prized portion of the plant – you need to dig a hole at least three feet deep. So it’s got cardiovascular benefits, too.

Where to look: Burdock thrives on roadsides in well-drained, poor-quality soil. Look for clusters of young plants with fairly small rosettes – the roots of older plants will be too difficult to remove and too fibrous to eat. 

How to use: To harvest, dig, dig, dig, then slowly pull the roots toward you. They should be light brown in color, 14 to 26 inches long, and an inch-and-a-half wide. Wash and peel the root, roast or pickle, or add chopped pieces to stir fries, soups, or stews.

“If you’re digging three feet down for burdock root, it may be time to reconsider your options. Maybe plant a potato instead. Or just go to Cronig’s.”      
– Anonymous