Nutritious, blood cleanser, used for centuries to treat a host of ailments. Chinese medicine used Burdock root, with other herbs, to treat symptoms of measles, tonsillitis, sore throats, gout, fevers, kidney stones, and the common cold. In Japan, it is eaten as a vegetable. Burdock has also been used to detoxify blood and eliminate waste. Today, it is sometimes used to treat cancer.
The burdock plant's long, slender taproot has a pleasant, crunchy texture and earthy flavor. Native to northern China and Siberia, burdock (Articum lappa) is cultivated mainly in Japan, where it has been an important vegetable since at least the 10th century. It also grows wild in North America. The plant can be recognized by its very large leaves and spiny burrs, which stick to your pants as you walk in the meadow. This " wild burdock" is very popular with macrobiotic students who feel it is one of nature's most powerful foods.
NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL BENEFITS
Highly regarded by ancient practitioners of Oriental medicine, burdock was thought of as a strengthening food-medicine, and was commonly eaten as a blood purifier. It was prescribed to hasten recovery from sickness as well as for relief from arthritis and diseases of the skin. In addition to its healing qualities, burdock is a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, folacin, and fiber.
In macrobiotic medicine burdock is thought to be a very yang vegetable with strong grounding, downward root energy. It is often recommended as part of a diet to counter the damaging effects of excessive sugar and drug use. Burdock root tea is used to increase vitality and induce good bowel movement. The juice of burdock root has been used in Oriental medicine to relieve the pain of appendicitis attacks.
COOKING WITH BURDOCK
When you buy fresh burdock root (in natural food stores, Oriental markets, and some supermarkets), look for firm, unbroken roots with taut skin. Slender roots tend to be more tender and less fibrous than thick ones. Avoid floppy roots or dry, brittle ones with wrinkled skins.
To prepare, scrub the root thoroughly but lightly with a stiff vegetable brush and remove any rootlets. It is best not to peel burdock except for overly tough roots, since the skin contains much of the flavor and nutritional value. Burdock's whitish flesh quickly becomes dark after being sliced. To avoid discoloration and eliminate the slightly bitter taste, immediately immerse sliced burdock in cold water for about 15 minutes or until ready to use.
Since burdock combines well with oil, it is often sautéed alone or with other vegetables, or deep-fried as tempura. It is also good simmered in a seasoned broth. Burdock requires lengthy cooking. When combining it with other vegetables in sautéed or simmered dishes, be sure to add burdock first and cook until it starts to become tender before adding other ingredients.