Survival foods: Burdock (Arctium genus)

Posted: April 5, 2014 by Rex Trulove in Survival, survival food, wild food
Tags: , , , , , ,
Large burdock leaf

Large burdock leaf

Burdock is the bane of many gardeners and is considered a weed and a pest, but it is also a great survival food. It is native to Europe and has become naturalized throughout much of the world. The plant is biennial and is known for the seed pods that they produce and which are covered with hook-like appendages that hook on to fur, feathers and clothing easily, necessitating a good deal of time to pick out the burrs. This trait is how the plant gets its common name.

This plant shouldn’t be confused with cockleburs, but except for the burrs, the two plants don’t look much alike.

Though the first year burdock doesn’t usually grow very tall, in the second year it can reach nearly three feet in height. The leaves have wavy edges and taper to a point from a thick base. Some leaves can be large and have stalks that are a foot long. The flowers are purple in color.

The long, tapering tap root is quite edible, especially if it is from the first year plant. Older roots can become tougher, more fibrous and bitter and may need to be boiled in more than one change of water.

The roots are normally peeled and thinly sliced before boiling. These can be especially tasty when seasoned with soy sauce and ginger, or wild ginger. The roots, cooked with wild onions and chicken broth, can make a very agreeable chicken soup.

A cup of the root, sliced and boiled, has only about 110 calories and it is quite high in vitamin B6, as well as being a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, fiber, and a fair source of calcium and iron. The downside is that it contains about 300 mg of sodium in the cup serving.

The flowering stalks, while they are still young and before the flowers open, can also be peeled and eaten raw or boiled. Since burdock is related to globe artichokes, it isn’t surprising that the flavor is similar.

The roots and seeds also have good medicinal value and are usually dried and made into tea for this purpose. The tea is good for treating scruvy, stomach problems, rheumatism, menstruation, dropsy, kidney problems and as a general tonic. The infusion is also a diuretic, helping the body flush toxins from the system. Externally, the tea is useful for treating ulcers, sores, bruises and boils. The leaves can also be used medicinally, but they tend to be bitter when taken internally.

Burdock is a useful plant for anyone needing to survive, or even to make meals stretch a little further. There aren’t many places where it can’t be found growing, so foraging is usually uncomplicated. Some people even grow it on purpose, even though it is known as a weed.

The picture is by Hans, public domain image, http://pixabay.com/en/great-burdock-journal-large-green-62435/

Previous survival food: Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

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