Phone

Foods

Burdock

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

A good source of such minerals as manganese and phosphorous, this carrot-like root vegetable is brown-skinned with white flesh that darkens quickly when cut. Popular in Japan, burdock can be found in Asian grocery stores and some health-food stores. It also grows wild in North America. The plant can be recognized by its very large leaves and spiny burrs (the "cockleburs" that stick to your clothes when you walk through a meadow). Many people who eat burdock compare it to celery and artichoke, and consider the taste to be earthy and mildly sweet. Uncooked wild American burdock tastes very bitter, though cooking removes the bitterness.

Burdock has traditionally been used for a wide variety of conditions, including chronic skin ailments, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and cancer prevention. Animal studies indicate that burdock possesses strong hypoglycemic (sugar-lowering) properties, which give burdock theoretical clinical potential for blood sugar control. Burdock has also been used as a diuretic, a mild laxative, and a digestive aid.

The carbohydrate inulin is the major constituent found in burdock and can comprise up to 50% of the plant's total mass. Inulin is made up of many fructose chains, which researchers believe are responsible for burdock's hypoglycemic activities. Inulin may act as a buffer, preventing blood glucose levels from fluctuating erratically. In addition, studies suggest that inulin has mild anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates the immune system, activating particular immune cells that may help alleviate skin conditions such as eczema. Interestingly, inulin promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines, though this property has not yet been explored in burdock.

Animal studies show that burdock stimulates the uterus, so it is recommended that pregnant and lactating women not consume burdock. Scientists believe that certain compounds (glycosides) found in the root may be responsible for the uterus–stimulating effect, as well as the laxative properties of burdock. Additional substances found in burdock include tannins, phenolic acids, volatile acids, and a plant hormone (a butyric acid derivative). Future studies may confirm the nutritive value and health benefits of burdock.

Varieties

There are two species of edible burdock, A. lappa--which is the cultivated Asian species, known in Japan as gobo--and A. minus, the wild American variety.

Availability

Burdock is sold in farmer's markets, health-food store produce sections, and Asian markets.

Shopping

In the market, look for firm burdock roots. Don't be put off if the outside is dirty or muddy; just wash the root well. Wild American burdock roots are generally 4" to 10" long, but the imported Japanese variety can be up to 3 feet long.

Storage

To store burdock, wrap the root in several paper towels and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerate burdock in the vegetable compartment for three to four days. If recently harvested, burdock will keep up to one week.

Preparation

As many of the nutrients are in the skin, it should simply be scrubbed, not peeled. Cut the vegetable into thin slices or slivers, or julienne with a sharp, heavy stainless-steel knife. Once cut, burdock should be immersed in cold, slightly acidulated water to prevent discoloration.

In Japanese cuisine, burdock is often lightly crushed with the flat side of a chef's knife to break down the woody fibers. It is briefly blanched, then cooked in a seasoned broth. It is then tossed in a light sesame dressing and refrigerated to marinate several hours or overnight.

Boiling: Sliced, julienned, or lightly crushed burdock can be dropped into boiling acidulated water and cooked until crisp-tender. Once cooked it should be drained, refreshed in cold water, and drained again. It can then be tossed in your favorite dressing or a lemony vinaigrette.

Braising: Cook sliced or julienned burdock in seasoned broth or water until crisp-tender. As its flavor is similar to artichoke hearts, it can be cooked accordingly. Once cooked, serve as a side dish or toss with pasta and peas for a main course.

Sauteing or stir-frying: For sauteing or stir-frying, grate or thinly slice burdock. Cook in seasoned oil until crisp-tender. Burdock may be cooked on its own or in combination with other vegetables. A popular Japanese dish known as kimpira is a combination of sauteed carrots and burdock, sprinkled with sugar and soy sauce and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

Nutrition Chart

Burdock/1 cup cooked

110
Total fat (g)
0.2
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
2.3
3
Carbohydrate (g)
27
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
5
Vitamin B6 (mg)
0.4


Date Published: 04/20/2005
Previous  |  Next
> Printer-friendly Version Return to Top