Can You Really Eat Burdock?

If you’re looking to improve your health and enjoy a tasty meal at the same time, look no further than your own backyard.

Burdock is a common herb that many people have growing wild on their properties. It can be quite annoying to encounter when you are walking in the woods, as it has small hooking burs that can latch onto your pants or socks.

great burdock

Annoyances aside, we’re willing to overlook a lot if a plant serves an important role. And burdock does, performing a vital role in the ecosystem.

But you’re probably wondering…is it edible?

Yes, burdock is edible, the roots, leaves and stems in particular. This flowering biennial has some pretty powerful nutritional qualities. It’s also quite tasty when cooked correctly.

If you have burdock growing nearby, don’t mow it down quite yet – consider all of these reasons to snack on burdock after your next walk in the woods.

Is Burdock Edible?

Although many people scorn burdock as a simple backyard annoyance, if you’re a homesteader, you may have wondered from time to time whether this unique plant is edible.

While you’ll want to be careful harvesting it, as the burrs can be prickly and there are look-alike plants that are actulaly toxic, burdock is more than edible – it is good for you.

It also tastes great when prepared correctly. Burdock has multiple purposes, making it a must-have item in your homestead medicine cabinet. Since it is found just about everywhere and has a unique taste that lends itself well to many dishes, it is also not only edible, but a prized kitchen staple.

What is Burdock?

A unique plant found in most areas of North America, burdock is in the same family as thistles, daisies, dandelions, and chicory. There are more than three different kinds of burdock on this continent, including varieties that are imported and those that edible.

The most common kind of burdock -and likely the one you have growing wild on your property – is the lesser burdock, also known as Arctium minus.

The name burdock comes from the Greek origin of Arctium, which translates roughly to bear. This is in regards to the brown burrs that appear on the plant. Burdock grows to about two feet in length and produces lean white roots.

This plant grows from knee to shoulder height and can be found in every state except Florida. While other types of burdock like wooly burdock and great burdock can also be found, it is quite easy to tell these species apart. Great burdock grows much taller- up to nine feet tall – while woolly burdock has fleecy-looking flower heads.

Burdock grows as a biannual. During the first year of growth, the plant produces a low circle of leaves. These leaves look quite similar to rhubarb but they have an unpleasant odor. During the second year of growth, the plant produces bushy flowers along with a flower stalk. It also produces thistle-like burrs.

Burdock grows in sun or partial shade, and in any kind of soil with adequate draining. If you’re looking to get rid of burdock, it can be quite a challenge, as it grows a loose taproot. You can find burdock growing just about anywhere, including in disturbed soil, underneath bird feeders, roadsides, barns, or fence lines.

Where is Burdock Found?

Despite being found throughout most of North America, burdock is not native to this continent. It was found originally in portions of northern Asia and Europe but now is found to an almost invasive extent in the United States. It grows prolifically, establishing itself just about anywhere it can set hold.

In the United States, this plant is viewed mostly as a weed. However, many Asian and European cultures propagate the plant as an important source of food and medicine.

Luckily, this plant has powerful properties as a holistic medicine. While burdock is considered a weed by many, it has so many benefits that you should avoid destroying it the next time you find it growing on your property.

What are the Health Benefits of Burdock?

Burdock has a number of health benefits that should not be overlooked. For example, this plant has extensive antibacterial and antifungal properties. It’s also a diuretic.

Burdock has a number of important nutrients and amino acids, including:

CholineVitamin K
Vitamin EVitamin B
Vitamin BVitamin C
Calcium Glutamic acid

Burdock is a powerful vector for important antioxidants. It is highly effective at protecting cells in the body from damage. It’s high in a number of notable antioxidants including phenolic acid, quercetin, and luteolin.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Eating Burdock?

There has been little formal research on burdock, so there’s little information about any potential side effects that eating burdock may have. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women are specifically cautioned to avoid eating burdock due to this lack of information.

Other than that, burdock is considered to be safe to eat. You need to be careful about harvesting it, however, as the plant closely resembles the belladonna nightshade plant. This plant is toxic and the two often grow side-by-side.

Remember too that burdock is a natural diuretic, so you should not consume it if you are already dehydrated. If you have allergies to daisies or chrysanthemums you should also avoid burdock, as the allergens are linked.

Can I Grow Burdock?

It is easy to grow burdock at home. Because this plant is a biennial, it won’t do much during its first-year of growth – besides produce delicious roots, that is.

During the first year, the plant is expending all of its energy on gathering energy. This energy is stored in the roots of the plant throughout the cold winter months, which is then used to fuel spring growth. As a result, the roots should only be gathered from first-year rosettes, as most nutritional value will be gone after that.

While you harvest burdock in the first fall or second spring, it grows quickly before this. There usually is plenty of root material to harvest even after just a few months of growth.

Keep in mind that although burdock is easy to grow, it is easiest to harvest before it has put on a lot of growth. Burdock can be difficult to dig up once the roots are mature.

Planting your own burdock in established beds of loose garden soil can help make this chore a bit easier. Burdock grows just fine in compacted soil, but cultivating it yourself in ideal conditions will make harvesting much easier.

How is Burdock Prepared?

Most people consume the roots of the burdock plant, but you can also extract or distill the oil from the plant. In fact, burdock oil is often consumed by people who choose to take a burdock supplement.

Otherwise, there are three edible parts of the plant: the young stalk, the leaf stalks, and the root. The central stalk can be harvested only during a small window in the early summer, while the leaf stalks can be harvested throughout the year.

However, these are very difficult to prepare. The root can be harvested throughout the year, including during the winter.

To harvest burdock, wait until the fall. Because the plant produces such a hefty taproot, it may be helpful to loosen it first.

You can eat first-year roots raw, or you can slow roast them for a few hours to give them a sweeter taste. Older roots should be boiled for twenty minutes before cooking. You can also eat the stems, leaves, and leaf stems of this plant.

To harvest burdock, be very careful. The roots go way underground and the tips of the roots are very fragile. Unfortunately, these are also the best parts of the plant to eat.

Try not to pull too hard or be reckless with your shovel. Instead, look for places where there are multiple plants growing in close proximity. Dig a two-foot-deep hole near the plants and then use your hands to gently pry the roots sideways out of the hole.

Once you’ve dug your roots, you can chop off the top few inches that are rough and dark in color. Throw these out and only eat the tender parts of the root. Peel them with a vegetable peeler. After that, you can grate or chop your burdock to be used in cooking.

Burdock is edible in its many forms, but tastes best in stir-fries. You can also make burdock vinegar, which is a great substitute in cooking. You can also make a burdock tincture to help with sore throats…

You can even eat the stalk of a burdock plant, although this requires a quick boil. The taste is rather bland and quite tough, but if you cook it for long enough, it can become tender enough to use in stir-fries or soups.

The flowers, too, of the burdock plant can be eaten, but it can be difficult to harvest these, since each flower is surrounded by razor-sharp thistles.

A final (and more unique!) recipe for burdock is candied burdock stems. To make this, all you need to do is cut a flower stalk when the flowers are forming.

You can remove the rind and slice up the stalk before boiling the pieces in water. You then add sugar and lemon zest to make a delicious dessert – and one that has a whole host of health benefits to boot!

Burdock grows just about anywhere with minimal help from gardeners, and while it can easily be viewed as a nuisance, it’s time to reframe your mindset. Consider harvesting this delicious plant – we guarantee you’ll probably never run out!

Whether you decide to consume this root or to pass it up in favor of another (perhaps less shiny) herb, know that there is no danger associated with eating any part of this plant.

While overconsumption should be avoided that’s true of any herb, and of course, you should always consult your medical professional before trying it.

Other than that, if you’re ready to try this healing herb, get your spade ready – you have some digging to do!

4 thoughts on “Can You Really Eat Burdock?”

  1. I asked my neighbors and each mentioned it is poisonous. My being inquisitive of many local plants and having an abundance of various plants in my yard it is interesting as to how ignorant the locals really are.
    My yard has burdock, wild mustard, and a few others that will become salads and or fried foods next year. Thank you big bunches for your information. It is greatly appreciated.

  2. I am a Japanese American lady and want to share that the Japanese eat burdock root and have had no problems. It is sold in bunches at oriental markets. Here is a delicious simple recipe I can share with anyone interested: Fried Burdock Root
    1 T. cooking oil, 1 lb. burdock root (called gobo) skinned and slivered, 3 T. sugar 1/4 C. soy sauce, 1 small red chili pepper seeded and minced.
    Optional: Carrot slivers and Toasted sesame seeds
    Saute burdock slivers in oil for 1 minute, Add remaining ingredients; mix and continue cooking over medium heat until sauce is absorbed, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with carrot slivers or sesame seeds, if desired. Eat with hot rice as a side dish. (modified recipe from “Japanese Cooking, Hawaii Style” by Muriel Miura) Note: the easiest way to skin the burdock root is to scrape it with the edge of a knife.

  3. I had no clue you could eat it! I’ve certainly had my eyes opened.
    Have you ever tried Burdock Rebekah?
    Going on from Kathleen’s comment, I didn’t know dandelions were edible too. When I was younger I had gerbils that loved their leaves though.

  4. Yes, it is edible, also it is a native plant in America. Many of our invasive plants (weeds) were brought to The US by our ancestors. Ex: dandelion and plantain. This is the weed not the fruit, they’re spelled the same way. Like Burdock, dandelion and plantain, the entire plants is edible. Nice article. Thank you. P.S. I made dandelion flower jelly this spring. It is quite tasty,very similar in taste to Apple Jelly.


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