Last weekend, D surprised me by taking me to New York City to celebrate my birthday. He’d already gotten tickets to a play (I Love You, Your Perfect, Now Change gets a big thumbs up from me) and had picked out a restaurant for dinner (aw, so sweet). He did ask me though what I’d like to do in the afternoon before the play started. I immediately said “Union Square.”
I’ve been to NYC dozens of times but never had the opportunity before to stop in at the granddaddy of farmers markets held in Union Square. I’d heard so much about it, including drooling over some of the produce Deb’s bought there during the past few years I’ve been reading Smitten Kitchen. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for the intensity of the experience. Hordes of people, none of which seemed to be paying any attention to anyone else around them to the point that I literally had to throw myself between people by times just to try to get a foot further among the stands of root vegetables, apples, and fresh baked goods. Elbowing aside, it was still an awesome market, even at the brink of spring before anything green was ready for this particular greenmarket.
Sad that there weren’t any ramps or asparagus to be had yet, I started scouting out for anything unique that I hadn’t had a chance to try before, even if it was just another “boring” root vegetable. After about the third or fourth stall of potatoes (granted, there was a very impressive array of potato varieties and sizes), I finally found something totally new to me: burdock root.
As it turns out, this long slender root, also known as gobo, has quite a reputation even if it was previously unknown to me. Very common in herbal medicinal practices in Japan and China, burdock root is used to treat colds, skin aliments and thicken thinning hair. There’s much research needed yet to confirm burdock root’s exact healing properties but there has been some small indications that they might be so powerful as to help treat cancer.
But since I didn’t know any of that at the time I bought my burdock root, I was only in it for the novelty of it. The sign next to the crateful of roots said they had a nice mildly sweet flavor, which I read to mean they might be nice roasted up with some of the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes I still had stashed away. Tossed with some olive oil, minced garlic (I’m one clove into my last head picked from the farm last season), and fresh minced rosemary (another buy at Union Square), this mix of roasted roots (well, really, only the burdock was a root; the others were tubers but “roasted roots” rolls off the tongue more easily) was quite nutty and filling, with indeed a hint of sweetness from the burdock root and the apple chunks I threw in at the last minute before serving.
Whew, that was quite a sentence above. Sorry for the overload. I’m just excited that taking a chance on the strange burdock root turned out to be so tasty. And since I had some leftovers, I was able to repurpose the roasted roots for a silky red lentil soup I’ll tell you about next time.
Now my only problem is, I don’t know where to get more burdock root! Perhaps it’ll make an appearance in my vegetable plot this summer. Or maybe I’ll just have to get D to take me back to NYC soon. You haven’t seen any burdock root around, have you?
Roasted Roots with Apples
A Straight from the Farm Original
1 large burdock root
4-6 Jerusalem artichokes
3-4 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. finely minced fresh rosemary
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 firm eating apple, diced
Preheat oven to 400 F. Thoroughly scrub the burdock root and lightly peel off any spots that look dubious. Chop into one inch pieces. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes (do not peel) and cut into one inch pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Chop the onion into 1 inch and also place on baking sheet.
Drizzle oil over the vegetables and toss. Sprinkle with the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss again until everything is evenly distributed. Place in preheated oven and roast until browned and tender, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with apple pieces. Serve immediately.