Burdock Root – A Little-Known Vegetable That Should Become More Mainstream
by Carole Ortenzo, Owner, Organic Personal Chef Service
I love using burdock root in soups (especially miso soup), stews, and in Asian vegetable dishes. Its earthy flavor adds a wonderful dimension to any dish in which it’s used. And, the fact that it’s one of the most important vegetables used in alternative medicine for both treatment and health maintenance speaks to its healthful qualities.
Please read the following information sheet, complete with a simple recipe, for more details.
Organic burdock root is often available at Whole Foods Market, in Shadyside, and at East End Food Coop, in Point Breeze. I, personally, get it at a store in my area, McMurray, called Sunny Bridge Natural Foods. It’s a small, natural foods store, and believe it or not, the price of organic burdock root there is almost half the price that it is at some other stores. So, talk with your local grocer and see if they can’t carry it. It would not only be more readily accessible, but it might also be less expensive. You can even provide your grocer with the below information sheet to help inform other customers as to what burdock root is, why they should eat it, and how to incorporate it into their diets.
Most people are familiar with the fruit of the burdock, those small burrs we pick off our clothes after walking along a road or in a meadow. Interestingly, those burrs were also the inspiration for Velcro. Burdock leaves were used by European continental women to wrap butter when bringing it to market, hence the name beurre-dock, or butter-dock (dock refers to a broad leaf). The root of the burdock, unquestionably the most important part when it comes to health and eating, is considered by some to be the most valuable root vegetable available. Burdock root, a slender root that grows up to two feet in length, has coarse, brown skin and fibrous, white flesh. It has long been used in Europe, since medieval Italy, and is a long-time favorite of the Japanese.
Burdock root purifies the blood and helps restore the body to normal health by supporting the elimination of toxins by the lungs and kidneys. In alternative medicine, it is used to treat abscesses, acne, eczema, hives, and rosacea because of its skin-detoxification and hormone-balancing properties. Burdock root supports digestion by stimulating the liver to secrete bile, a key digestive function, and is an excellent source of potassium and inulin. Inulin is a helpful carbohydrate for both diabetics and hypoglycemics because it does not elicit rapid insulin production. Burdock root is also used in herbal formulas as an anticarcinogen (anticancer agent), a treatment for arthritis, a liver detoxifier, and for general kidney support.
Most people enjoy eating burdock root cooked, but some eat it raw, grated on salads, or juiced as part of a regimen for clearing the skin. To cook it, leave the skin on, lightly scrub it with a vegetable brush under running water to remove dirt, thinly slice it, and allow 5 to 10 more minutes cooking time than you would for carrots. Burdock’s sweet, earthy flavor and tender-crisp texture enhance soups (excellent in miso soup), stews, and vegetable dishes. Select firm roots, preferably not more than 1” in diameter. Limp roots are acceptable if they are not spongy or dehydrated. Unwashed burdock will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for a month or more.
References: The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood, Prescription for Natural Cures by James Balch, M.D. & Mark Stengler, N.D., Food Lover’s Companion, by Sharon Herbst, www.cybermacro.com, www.Food4Peace.com, www.rawfoodinfo.com, and www.susunweed.com.
Burdock, Carrots, and Onion Kimpura
Yield: 5-6 servings
Adapted from a recipe by Melanie Ferreira, instructor at The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. (Kimpura is believed to strengthen the intestines.)
Ingredients:2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or sesame oil (light, not toasted), more as needed 2 cups matchsticked* burdock root 1 cup thinly-sliced onion 1 cup matchsticked* carrot Sea salt, to taste Shoyu (high-grade soy sauce), to taste- start with about 2 tablespoons
1) Heat a large skillet over low-to-medium heat. Add oil and heat. Add burdock and sweat (cook over low heat), covered, until they start to become tender. Stir periodically.
2) Add onions and carrots and mix together. Cook, covered, for approximately 10 minutes more. When vegetables are tender, add sea salt and shoyu, to taste.
*To matchstick root vegetables, cut diagonal slices that are approximately ¼” thick and 1 ½” long. Stack the slices, two or three at a time, and cut lengthwise into approximately ¼” strips.