Root Source?

April 14, 2008 at 4:10 pm 16 comments

Cross section of burdock root

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.” 

The ingredients

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. 

Burdock root slices

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. 

rosemary and garlic

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.

herbs and roots

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.

(serves 4-5) 

Roasted Roots and Apple


Entry filed under: Purely Vegetables, Recipes. Tags: , , , .

Au Naturel Root Remix

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kaykat  |  April 14, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    I ate burdock root once at a restaurant and wasn’t quite sure what I thought of it. But this sounds insanely delicious. Besides, a yummy root vegetable roast can only be goodness, right? 🙂

  • 2. yoko  |  April 14, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    I’d imagine the Asian grocery stores in the city would have burdock root– I know I’ve bought some outside the city, at a Japanese grocery store– Maido, in Narberth. I didn’t do a good job of cooking it, I have to admit– a typical Japanese dish involves braising it in a soy-sugar-mirin base until soft, which takes some time to do.

  • 3. Julia  |  April 14, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    I agree, Union Square greenmarket can be very overwhelming…I’m used to it and love the energy, but my boyfriend hates the crowds. i’m glad you still found something new to enjoy! I’ve seen burdock root at the market but never had it…so maybe I’ll pick it up next time, since we’re still in roasted root mode here too (just had roasted potatoes and squash tonight).

  • 4. phosphene  |  April 15, 2008 at 11:43 am


    (Long time reader, first time commenter here.) I bet you could get plenty of burdock root in Fairmount Park. I used to work there and it is one of the top invasive species that they aggressively remove in an attempt to keep it under control – and it STILL grows everywhere. Of course I would speak to someone who works there to find out where I could get some that had not been sprayed with dangerous pesticides (although I think they use pesticides pretty minimally). When I worked there I ate tons of raspberries that I picked from the park to no ill effect.

  • 5. Angie  |  April 16, 2008 at 7:24 am

    I used to get burdock root at that little veggie place on 20th some times, and definitely have bought it at Essene. It is used in macrobiotic cooking, so they usually have it.

  • 6. Ari (Baking and Books)  |  April 17, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    I go into the city all the time and I’ve never been to the Union Square market either, how sad is that? Your post has inspired me to remedy that soon!

  • 7. Jennie  |  April 17, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Kaykat – How right you are! A yummy root roast IS always goodness! Hope you give burdock root another try. 🙂

    Yoko – There is an Asian supermarket up in Lansdale that I’ve enjoyed visiting that probably carries it, but I was hoping for some more locally grown stuff. 🙂

    Julia – Enjoy the market and the burdock for me! I wish I lived closer so I could get more familiar with the vendors and wouldn’t feel so “washed away” in the crowd. 🙂

    Phosphene – YAY! I love it when readers come out of the woodwork and start commenting. 🙂 Thanks for the tips on foraging in Fairmount for burdock root. However, I am a little nervous about foraging for it since it very closely resembles a few members of the nightshade family that are posionous. Still, perhaps if I can get a little more familiar with the plant or someone in the park is dead certain what’s burdock root and what’s not and can show me, that’d be a wonderful source for getting some locally grown. 🙂 Thanks again for the tip (and the comment)!!

    Angie – I totally forgot about Essene (a local natural food market for those of you not in Philly). It’s been ages since I’ve been there but perhaps it’s time to make a trip… 🙂

    Ari – I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t made the pilgramage yet to Union Square. Definitely go! 🙂

  • 8. lifeinrecipes  |  April 18, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for this post. i’ve just begun familiarizing myself with burdock. There’s a preparation simmered with mirin called kinpira gobo that I like very much. Where I live, it is available at WHole Foods and other markets of that ilk.

  • 9. Gretchen Noelle  |  April 19, 2008 at 9:57 am

    I have taken burdock root in a capsule or tea form for the past few years as a blood and liver cleanser. Never thought to eat it though. What fun!

  • 10. Root Remix « Straight from the Farm  |  April 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    […] quite have the energy to start from square one.  What to do…what to do?  I spied the leftover roasted roots in the fridge, looking a little worse for the wear (certainly lacking any “crispy” […]

  • 11. lyra  |  April 25, 2008 at 11:43 am

    You can see some good pictures of wild burdock here:
    You can also eat the stem which tastes like artichoke (all of these plants are in the same family along with stinging nettles). Italians used to eat the stem and call it cardoon.

    There are a bunch of these babies growing along a path in a park near by house, but I worry what people will do if I start digging with a shovel in a public park…

  • 12. Jennie  |  April 25, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    LifeInRecipes – Thanks for the heads up about Whole Foods. I’d rather get mine locally grown though. I like the sound of the kinpira. Any chance you have that posted somewhere?

    Gretchen – Yes, burdock root extract is suppose to have myriad medicinal benefits. Try the root itself sometime and let me know what you think. 🙂

    Iyra – Awesome link! Thank you! I’d heard you could eat the flower of the burdock plant but didn’t realize you could eat the stem too. Yes, I wonder what the rules are for foraging them off public park land…. any other readers know the finer print of foraging…??

  • 13. Chet  |  May 3, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Just say you are removing invasive plants because you are! I send most of my days trying to kill Burdock in the Chicago Parks! They are almost impossible to ig up without cutting the root. It takes a LOT of digging. I am searching for instructions on when to harvest them.

  • 14. Food Blog » Blog Archive » Root Remix  |  June 22, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    […] quite have the energy to start from square one.  What to do…what to do?  I spied the leftover roasted roots in the fridge, looking a little worse for the wear (certainly lacking any “crispy” […]

  • 15. manju  |  February 2, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Hi, Jennie, I’m loving your blog! We love gobo but I’ve only prepared it as kinpira (the soy-mirin saute) or wrapped with kombu (seaweed) and simmered. I never actually thought of it as another root vegetable that I could roast!! I have some fresh root in the pantry and I’m going to give this a try! Many thanks.

  • 16. Ben  |  December 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Whole Foods carry Burdock root if you have one near you Asian Grocery stores will sometimes carry them also.


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