Friday, August 15, 2014

What the Heck is Burdock Root

by Sheila Connolly

Not long ago I was in a Whole Foods store and saw that they had burdock root.  Oh, joy, quoth I!

Huh? I have no idea what to do with burdock root. All I know is, I had never cooked it. As far as I could recall, I had never seen it in my life. But I love a challenge, so I bought a pound of the stuff. Which sat for a while in my fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike.

I tried to find a recipe, really, I did. There were several suggested paths: (1) treat it like any other root vegetable; (2) go with Asian flavors, particularly soy sauce and anything aiming for umami (which I still don’t really understand); or (3) make a healthy, all-natural face product with it. Oh, yum.

LONG roots!
It’s a plant native to this country, but it’s also an invasive weed, so if you find it and pull it out, you’re doing your native habitat a favor. (No, I don’t know what it looks like in the wild, or where to find it.) But then, it’s not easy to pull out because the plant has a very long root. You must be determined!

You can see where the
Velcro idea came from
The best explanation of the stuff came from a blog called Edible Manhattan, by Marie Viljoen. She says it provided the inspiration for the invention of Velcro. Not the greatest recommendation for a tasty side-dish.

As for cooking… She was adamant that you had to peel it first. Looking at it in its natural state, I’d say that’s kind of obvious. But really peel it—get down to the creamy white part. To cook it, slice or julienne it and sauté it in olive oil or butter; add white wine or lemon juice; maybe throw in some garlic and sweet carrot (nice color contrast, that). She and lots of other food writers say burdock pairs well with soy or miso.


So, what the heck—you only live once (no, burdock root is not poisonous!). Here is my stab at sautéed burdock.

1 pound burdock root, peeled and julienned (long thin strips)
1 Tblsp butter
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tblsp soy sauce

In a skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter and mix in the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and sauté until it is translucent (do not allow it to burn).

Add the julienned burdock root and toss to cover the pieces. Cover the sauté pan and let the burdock cook through (test regularly—you don’t want the pieces to turn to mush). When cooked, add the soy sauce and toss. Serve warm, with grilled meat.

You can change it up by adding julienned carrots, and add a touch of color with chopped parsley.

Good luck!

The new Orchard Mystery coming in October. Wonder if Meg likes burdock root?

And the schedule seems to be holding for a new ebook in September. Hint: it's a sequel to last year's Relatively Dead (which was a NYT ebook bestseller), and it's called Seeing the Dead. More details to follow!


  1. And? you didn't say how you liked it, or how it tasted! Spill! The finished product looks like potato fries. Please give us your best comparison to another food.

  2. Yes, we all want to know, Sheila! I think I have this stuff growing on my lawn and so ....???

    Thanks for another surprising and entertaining post.



  3. I'm with Anne...what did it taste like? Did you like it? Peeling such thin roots must have been a fairly tedious job.

  4. I love your experiments, Sheila. This is another item which makes me wonder - who was so desperate for food that they tried eating it in the first place? Your solution was wise. Everything, even escargot, is good in butter and garlic. Hmm, that photo is of thistles, isn't it? So is it the root of the thistle plant? I don't know how long they are but I find them next to impossible to yank out of the ground.

  5. Wow, you are very adventurous. Not sure I would try this but I do like experimenting. Tell my family they are having guinea pig food when it's something new.

  6. This is great! I've never cooked burdock root, but I use the dried root often in my tea blends because of the many antioxidants it has and for its detox and liver protection powers. Healing stuff!

  7. I read somewhere that people used to make a tea from burdock as a 'spring tonic'.

  8. You should look for a kinpira gobo (burdock root) recipe. My mom used to make this and really loved it.