When it comes to edible roots, your first thoughts may go to potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Anotherroot also belongs to the lineup: burdock root. It comes from a biennial plant that's part of the daisy family, Asteraceae. Burdock is originally from Asia and Europe but now grows around the world, including in the United States, where it's considered a weed.
The roots that you may spot at the store look like thin wooden spears from the outside and smell woody too. Cut through the brown outside of one, though, and you'll discover a tough, white inner. It's crunchy and has a sweet and earthy flavor.
People have been using burdock root for medicinal purposes for centuries, particularly in Chinese medicine and Western herbalism. It's most popular in Asian countries, particularly Japan, where it's called gobo. There, people commonly eat it as a vegetable and use it in stews and stir-fry dishes. It's even pickled.
Watch: 3 Unusual Savory Fruits and Roots
While burdock root doesn't have many vitamins, it has quite a few minerals. It's packed with potassium — almost as much as the amount found in bananas. One root gives you nearly 14 percent of your daily value, and about the same amount of bananas would supply 15 percent. The raw root is also rich in magnesium, which is important for strong bones and for maintaining normal muscle, nerve and heart function as well as normal blood pressure. Burdock is a good source of carbohydrates and fiber, too, with one root containing 27 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber.
You'll also benefit from antioxidants found in the root, which fight free radicals that are responsible for several diseases. The root is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, which is the reason it's commonly used to treat skin conditions like acne. Its antibacterial qualities could also make it a strong fighter of infections, helping with colds and sore throats.
There's more than one way you'll find burdock root, which are harvested in the fall. You might see the fresh root in some grocery stores and Asian markets. This form is best used in cooking. One of the more common ways you'll find it, though, is in teas. Burdock root is included in several detox blends on the shelves, but you can make your own cup of tea using the fresh or dried version of the root too.
You can also buy burdock root in powder form and put it in capsules to take as supplements. However, there's not a lot of information out there about the safety of burdock root supplements, so eating it fresh is considered safer and healthier.
The fresh root can be used in several kinds of dishes. To prepare it, you'll want to first scrub it well to get any debris and dirt off and peel it to remove any bitter flavor. After, soak it for 10-20 minutes in water with a little bit of acid to keep it from oxidizing and losing its color. You can then cook it as you would other vegetables such as potatoes or carrots. Roast burdock "chips," fry the root to make fries, incorporate it into stir-fries or throw it in a stew.
A fewrecipes you can easily add burdock root into include Slivered Vegetable and Tofu Stir-Fry, Miso-Glazed Burdock with Red Lettuces, Roasted Vegetables, and Fall Vegetable Stew with Mint Pesto To make your own tea, just pour boiling water over fresh or dried root and let it steep for five to ten minutes.