Saturday, March 12, 2011

Diggin' Burdock

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I learned so much about burdock this past weekend as spring is being heralded in, waking me from my winter slumber. A long time friend and I made our way to another friend's homestead where burdock was happily growing in one of her favorite places -- the barnyard. We were both drawn to the back entrance of the barn where one was just beginning to raise her first leaves. Zealously we began to dig to see just what it was that we had here. We caught ourselves in mid spade having forgot to ask permission of the plant to remove this beauty from her barnyard. We paused, asked forgiveness, sang to her, made prayers, asked if she was the one who wanted to come with us and then plucked a few silvery grey hairs to leave as an offering. What we discovered was a second year root that had most likely been cut off at some point, producing two roots that grew entwined together like lovers. Two women, digging two roots joined together as one. My understanding is that as long as some part of the root is left in the ground when harvesting, it will grow back. I suspect this one got cut back because it was in the entrance to the barn, and then married with a first year root. That might also explain why the color of their respective leaf tops was different and one was woodier than the other.

First year roots are the most desirable because they haven’t given up their medicine to make flower stalks and seeds. They contain the most inulin and are sweeter. My feeling that burdock is best consumed fresh in the fall was confirmed upon doing further research. You can dig it anytime during its first year between fall and spring, but first year roots dug in the fall are the best. The leaves on a first year plant are a rosette, stay closer to the ground and don't produce a flower stalk. Burdock is biennial. If you pay attention and mark the first year plants, then you can dig ‘em up in the coming fall!
I have made an herbal vinegar tincture with almost all of the root(s) and cooked the remaining with rice. Special thanks to my husband, Chuck, aka The GreenMan, for taking these pics, to Joyce for her adventuresome spirit, and to Susun Weed for reminding how much more potent wild roots are compared to domesticated ones.