Burdock is a root vegetable that is easily found in the wild and is a cultivated vegetable in Japan. Besides its culinary uses, it is also used in traditional Chinese medicine, and it’s sticky seeds became an inspiration for a new, breakthrough technology – Velcro.
The roots of young burdock plants are used in cooking , since it becomes overly fibrous when grown too large. Look for burdock roots that are firm and are between 18 – 24 inches in length and about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. The burdock pictured above was grown organically from a small producer, Harmony Valley, in Wisconsin.
Burdock has a crunchy texture and an earthy, nutty flavor. Its thin skin can be removed with a light scrubbing or scraping. It is rich in phenolic (anti-oxidants) compounds and will easily turn grayish-brown when sliced. To prevent this, place freshly cut burcok in cold water with a little vinegar or lemon juice.
Burdock is most famously used in Kinpira – a dish of sliced carrots and burdcok simmered in dashi, soy sauce and mirin. It also found in soups, braised dishes (e.g. chicken and vegetables) and mixed with rice.