use your hands or a stick to slowly and gently pry
the root sideways into the hole that you’ve dug.
After digging, chop off the top few inches
of the root, where it is roughened and dark.
Don’t be shy about discarding these. They
are tough, and your meal will be better if
you are picky about tenderness. Clean the
roots and peel them with a vegetable peeler.
Burdock roots can be tough, especially during
certain parts of the season. For this reason, I
like to chop them very fine or grate them.
Commercially grown burdock root can be
found in health food stores (where it is sold as a
health tonic) and Asian markets. (Burdock’s food
value is more widely appreciated in Asia.) It is
easy to find burdock recipes – many with an Asian
flair and some quite elaborate – but I recommend
starting with a simple stir fry that will allow you to
get to know burdock’s mild, sweet flavor.
Burdock Stir Fry
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil until beads of water just begin to sizzle. Add minced burdock root. Five minutes later, add an equal amount of minced onion. In another five minutes, add an equal amount of minced carrot. Season sparingly with brown sugar and a tamari soy sauce. Continue frying until carrots are tender and onions are just starting to caramelize. The burdock will maintain a hearty crunch.
[ NATURALLY CURIOUS ]
In New England, fruit-eating birds are particularly
vulnerable in the winter because they depend
so heavily on a food source that ferments. Toxic
levels of ethanol can be produced as the natural
sugars break down, causing some consumers
to become inebriated. Robins, waxwings, and
starlings have been found dead in large flocks
after eating fermented berries and then diving
into the ground or colliding with solid structures.
In addition, when they are really drunk, birds lose
mobility, making them helpless in the presence
of predators. To the surprise of many observers,
birds that appear lifeless on the ground have been
known to eventually sober up and fly away. While
birds don’t intentionally wish to ingest a lot of
alcohol, there are other animals, such as elephants
and apes, that will wander for miles to seek the
pleasure of fermented fruits.—Mary Holland