Burdock, also known as gobo or Arctium lappa, is a edible plant native to Asia, although it now grows wild over much of North America and Europe and is considered a weed by many gardeners. Cooked burdock root is crunchy and has a mild flavor similar to potatoes or artichokes, and it can be used in soups and stir fries. Burdock root tea has traditionally been used as a detoxifier to treat acne, infections and liver problems.
Learn to positively identify burdock if you are harvesting it in the wild and are not growing it in a garden setting. Burdock grows up to 7 feet tall and has large, arrow-shaped leaves on thick stalks. The root is fat and deep. Mature plants produce spiky purple flowers similar to thistles and seed burrs that stick to clothing or fur. Always consult multiple sources to verify an identification before eating any wild plant. Most field guides to wild edibles should provide you with more information and illustrations for identifying wild burdock root.
Locate young burdock plants to dig. Burdock is a biennial, and the root become woody and unappetizing after the first year. Choose first-year burdock plants with only a rosette of leaves near the ground. Avoid plants with flowers or a flower stalk. First- year burdock root may be harvested in the summer or fall.
Dig a hole next to the burdock you wish to harvest. Begin digging a few inches away from the burdock stalk and dig down at least 1 foot. Burdock roots may be 2 or more feet long. Loosen the soil next to the root with your fingers or a hand trowel.
Press the shovel into the soil next to the burdock root on the opposite side of the hole you dug. Lean into the shovel to push the burdock root out of the hole.
Trim off leaves and feeder roots and rinse well. Do not peel. Store fresh burdock root in the refrigerator for a week or more to use as a food, or slice it thinly and dry it in a dehydrator or low oven to use medicinally.