Saturday, July 7, 2012

Burdock Stalk Recipe: Arctium lappa

Peeling burdock is like peeling a thin, 2-3 foot carrot. 
We've tried to eat many parts of the burdock plant in the past.  But when Arthur Haines mentioned a few weeks ago that the stalk was his favorite part of the plant, I decided that we had to try it.  Finding burdock was easy enough.  They grow all up and down our road.  I cut five robust looking stalks, tore off the large leaves and carried the stalks home.  (We've tried to eat the leaf-stalk, or petiole, before but found them impractical to peel.)  The stalks had an earthy smell that I found slightly unpleasant, but I sallied forth with, having recieved such esteemed recommendations. 
The outter tissue of the stalk is extremely bitter and must be completely and carefully peeled away to reveal the starching and mild inner core.  Imagine peeling a 2 1/2 foot long, thin and floppy carrot and you begin to get the idea.  It's definitely a fun novelty preparation, and I imagine that one could get skilled at processing this awkward vegetable with practice.  I'd read somewhere (I don't remember where) a favorable comparison between burdock stalk and new potatoes.  So we decided to try parboiling them and then sauteeing them in olive oil with garlic and onion.  I liked the flavor, but Ooga was the real test, she being much pickier than I. 

I started her off with a small portion and  . . . she asked for seconds.  We were ready to count this as a new family side dish. 

The next week, we were out walking, and I found a big patch of burdock.  I cut a few of the smaller stalks hoping to encourage the larger ones to propogate and bless us with hearty stalks in subsequent years.  I stripped them, carried them home and, since I didn't feel like eating them just then, stuck them in our refrigerator.  I found them again several days later.  They were a little wilted, but I wasn't scared.  I got out our trusty peeler and started on them hoping for another tasty mea.  Peeling these stalks was a real challenge though.  The fibers didn't come off anywhere near as easily.  And even though the stalks were narrower than the ones from our previous meal, they seemed tougher and drier.  After mangling two stalks into inedible stumps, I gave up. 

I'm not sure if the problem was my selection (of older, less tender stalks) or my storage (three days in the fridge).  From now on though, I'll plan to peel my burdock stalks shortly after picking it in hopes of enjoying a meal like the one pictured below. 

Our delicious first attempt at burdock stalk as a vegetable. 


  1. your stalks look much bigger than what I've seen around. Please keep posting. I find your blog very interesting, and we're from Northeast CT...

  2. Good to know. I'll be growing burdock this summer. Mostly for the root, but now I think I'll give the stalks a try too.

  3. This article really helped me! Last year my burdock stalks were seriously fibre-y - I think because I had them in the fridge a few days. This time I was really scrupulous and got them thoroughly peeled. I coined them, stir-fried them in butter with garlic - and tossed in some oyster mushrooms - really excellent reviews from even the 4 year-old and 2 year-old.

  4. By the way, my burdock are a Japanese selection, and some get extremely big flower stalks (1.5" at base, including skin), so I elected to only do the bottom two thirds, as the tops are the fiddlest. If I'd had a sharper knife, that would have helped I think.