Burdock is a hearty edible found virtually everywhere across the Midwest. It thrives in many conditions, even in poor rocky soil and drought. You can easily find it on the disturbed edges of fields and waste sites, and it spreads it's seeds abundantly. It is known for its nutritious yet sturdy taproot that affixes the plant solidly to the ground, and its thistle-like purple flower. From burdock root to seed, the entire plant is completely edible and dense with nutrition.
Burdock root is a mildly sweet, nourishing carbohydrate. It is a versatile starchy vegetable the can be eaten raw, mashed, roasted, and even pickled. The young, tender greens are high in vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and calcium, and can be steamed or used in salads. Burdock root has a long history of uses in folk medicine as a blood purifier, diaphoretic, and diuretic, and for its ability to stimulate bile production and regenerate the cells of the liver. It has traditionally been simmered into a tea to help treat skin conditions, boost the immune system, ease digestive issues, and as a concentrated source of easily absorbable vitamins and minerals.
Be sure to select a clean, unpolluted, wild area to harvest your burdock. It often grows near roads and in urban areas, but plants absorb pollutants like car exhaust and herbicides, so take care to get your burdock from a clean, unpolluted area.
Bring a spade to dig out the root. Be prepared to dig, especially if the plants are in their second year, as the taproots can be quite strong. Once excavated, take the root home and scrub between all the crevices with water (no soap!). The roots are usually gnarled and retain a lot of soil in their crevices.
Harvest small, basal leaves in the spring of the plant's first or second year (before it sends up stalks). The stalks and shoots of the second year can be trimmed with pruners, but only until the plant goes to flower, at which point the stalk becomes woody and inedible.
The young, tender leaves of burdock are high in vitamins and minerals. Sauté them in stir-fry or soups. To cook the stems, peel them as you would a rhubarb stalk and then julienne it (cut into short, thin strips) for salads or stir-fry.
Cooking Burdock Root
Cooking burdock root in the oven is easy. With a little of your own creativity, you can spice it up and make a flavorful and nutritious roasted vegetable dish.
- 2 lb burdock root
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Wash the burdock roots well to remove any dirt and grit, then slice into one inch rounds.
Spread the roots out onto a sheet pan, cut sides down. Roast for 15 minutes or until golden on one side, then flip. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
When they are golden brown on the second side, remove them from the oven and serve.
Oven roasted burdock root has a nice, nutty flavor, and tastes delicious with a little tamari or soy sauce and roasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Burdock Root Tea
Burdock root has traditionally been used in folk medicine and prepared as a tea for many ailments. Burdock tea can help ease digestive issues, boost the immune system, heal skin conditions like acne and eczema, purify the blood, and support liver health. It goes well paired with other roots to benefit the liver, kidneys, and immune system, and is used frequently in immune boosting tea formulas.
The dehydrated root can be toasted and roasted in an iron skilled and then combined in herbal tea blends with roasted chicory root, dandelion root, licorice root, or other roots for an earthy tea. To dehydrate, chop the fresh, clean root into small pieces, dry completely, and place in a dehydrator or on flat cardboard and in a dry, dark room for 2-3 weeks. When completely dried, store in an airtight container and use for teas when needed.
Immune Boost Tea
- 1 part burdock root
- 1 part dandelion root
- 1/3 part ginger root
- 1/3 part cinnamon chips
- 1/3 part licorice root
Combine the above ratio of dried herbs into a mixing bowl and mix well. I recommend to make in total at least 2 oz. of mixture, and store in an airtight glass container away from direct sunlight.
To prepare the tea:
1. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of your herbal mixture, and let simmer on the lowest heat (smallest burner is best) with the cover on. Simmer on low for 20 minutes.
3. Turn off heat, and strain. Drink up 2-3 cups per day, and store any extra tea in the refrigerator in an airtight, glass container for up to 3 days.