Eating burdock roots is a great way to get your daily intake of carbohydrates. Burdock (Arctium lappa) is often found along woodland rides, hedgerows, verges and waste ground and is a fairly distinctve plant. If you’re not sure take a look at this post I wrote a few years back that highlights the differences between dock, burdock, primrose and foxglove, so take a look to make sure that you identify the right plant.
It has a two year lifecycle. In the first year it produces very large leaves that sit there soaking up as much sunlight as they can. This is then converted into energy in the form of sugars and starches via photosynthesis. This energy is stored in a tap root; think a large parsnip type thing.
Once it gets to late autumn the leaves die away, but the tap root remains underground where it waits until spring. Then the plant uses that stored energy to produce smaller leaves, but most importantly its flowers so that it can reproduce.
So for eating you want to harvest the tap root in the autumn of the first year or over the winter. But remember, by digging the plant up you’ve kiled it, but more importanatly you’ve killed it before it’s had the chance to reproduce, so only harvest this plant sparingly and make sure that there are plenty left that can reproduce.
The tap root can be sizable and provide a good meal.
The photo above is Mark holding a burdock that we dug up during the course we run on the Isle of Arran. Once dug up they can be cooked as you would any root vegetable, but they definitely benefit from soaking in clean water for an hour or so first.
We teach people about burdock and many, many other plants on our foraging courses as well as on our trip to the Isle of Arran. You can see photos from these courses, and all of our others, on our Facebook page as well as photos of people on our courses here.