Thursday, May 19, 2016

Featured Vegetable of the Week: Burdock Root!

   By Andrea Yoder

We are one of only a handful of burdock growers in the country and it is a very important crop for our farm from an economic perspective.  Beyond its economic value, we also hold this vegetable in high regard for its nutritional value and the positive impacts it has on our own health.  Despite the fact that we grow burdock root every year, we’ve only included it in our CSA boxes one time in the last seven years as, historically, it has been under appreciated by members.  But something odd has been happening over the past year.   We’ve been selling more burdock at our market stand last fall and this spring than I’ve ever seen before.  Most of our market crew members have even become burdock eaters after realizing they had been talking about the vegetable but hadn’t tried it themselves. When they did give it a try they found they really liked it!  So this year we thought maybe we should reconsider where burdock fits into our CSA box plans and  decided to give this modest vegetable another opportunity to shine.  Please read on with an open mind and embrace this opportunity to try something different.

Burdock is the long, slender brown root vegetable that is packaged in a plastic bag with a red background.   It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries where it is thought to have important health benefits as a blood and liver purifier in addition to use as a digestive aid and it’s beneficial for treating skin disorders.  It is found quite frequently as an ingredient in tonics used in non-traditional treatments for cancer among other health maladies.

 The Japanese are thought to have been the first culture to include burdock in their diets as an edible plant in addition to its medicinal uses.  You’ll find burdock to have a subtle, unique, earthy flavor with a crisp carrot-like texture and a slight sweetness.  Burdock pairs well with foods such as mushrooms, onions, garlic, beef, brown rice, barley and other root vegetables.  It may be eaten raw, cooked or dried and used in teas.  Before using, scrub the root with a vegetable brush.  You may peel the root if you desire, however the skin is thin and can eaten as well.  Burdock root stores well for months as long as it is stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.
There are also two more recipes printed on the back of the burdock bag including one for Kinpira, a traditional Japanese preparation for burdock.  I hope you will approach this vegetable with an open mind and give it a try.  It has a lot to offer and you’ll reap the health benefits even if consumed in small quantities….as you’re learning to like it.

Burdock and Mushroom Risotto
Serves 4

5 to 6 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter, divided
½ cup finely chopped scallions or onions
2 Tbsps garlic or green garlic, minced
1 cup burdock, chopped (peeling is optional)
1 lb assorted mushrooms of your choice, wiped clean and thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 cup dry white wine
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp fresh parsley, minced

  1.  In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to very  low to keep the stock warm while you are making the risotto.
  2.  In a large, heavy bottom saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of  butter and heat until melted.  Add the onions and garlic and saute, stirring until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and burdock. Continue to saute for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are softened and most of their liquid has evaporated. Remove the vegetable mixture from the pan and set aside.  
  3. Return the pan to the stovetop and add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan. Once the   butter is melted, add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.  Toast the rice until the grains are   opaque, about 1 minute. Add the wine and thyme.Stir to combine and then simmer until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.  Add ½-¾ cup of stock along with the salt, black pepper, and burdock mixture. Continue to simmer the rice, stirring periodically.  When nearly all the liquid has evaporated, add another ½ cup of stock. Continue to add more stock in ½ cup increments as needed until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy. Stir in ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and the parsley. Stir well to combine. Serve immediately, topping each portion with a sprinkling of the remaining cheese.  

This recipe was shared with us by Kyle Lindemer, a Madison CSA member and one of our market crew members.  Thanks Kyle!

Shoe String Burdock Fries

By Chef Andrea Yoder

Serves 4-6 as a garnish 

4 oz burdock root (2 medium size pieces, 10-12” in length)
3-4 cups sunflower or vegetable oil (appropriate for high heat cooking)
Raw Burdock Shavings

Fine sea salt

  1. Pour oil into a 3-4 quart pot.  You want the oil to be about 1 ½” deep.  You need to make sure the pan has tall sides as the  oil will expand when you fry the burdock. Make sure there is an additional 3 inches of clearance between the top of the oil and the top of the pan.
  2. Heat the oil on the stovetop over medium-high heat.  While the oil is warming up, prepare the burdock.
  3. Scrub the surface of the burdock with a vegetable brush, then blot the surface with a towel to remove excess moisture.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin pieces of burdock by running the vegetable peeler down half of the root.  Rotate the root slightly after each shaving to try and keep the shavings thin.  Once you are down to a skinny piece in the middle, turn the root around and repeat on the other end.  You should have about 3 cups of shavings when you are done.
  4. Test the oil temperature by dropping one piece of burdock into the oil.  It should sizzle and bubble immediately and rise to the top of the oil surface.  If it does not sizzle and/or drops to the bottom of the pan, the oil is not hot enough.  If the oil is bubbling and or smoking before you add the burdock to the pan, it is too hot and you should carefully remove it from the heat source immediately.
  5. When the oil is ready, start frying the burdock in small batches.  Do not put more than a small handful of burdock shavings into the pan at one time.  If you put too much burdock into the oil at one time, you risk boiling over.  Using tongs, gently stir the burdock in the oil to separate the strands.  Fry until the strands are lightly browned.  Use the tongs to gather the burdock together and lift it from the oil. Place the burdock on a plate lined with paper towels.  Use the tongs to gather the pieces into a little pile like a haystack. Sprinkle the pile lightly with fine sea salt while still hot.  
  6. Now you can repeat the process with the next handful of burdock.
  7. Once all the burdock is fried, remove the oil from the heat and set aside in a safe location to cool.  
  8. It is best to serve the burdock fries the same day you fry them.  Use them as a garnish for soups, grilled steak, chicken, pork or fish dishes.  You can also add the fries to a burger or other sandwich for a little added crunch.  And finally, you can just eat them as is because they are that delicious!

This is a preparation I made several years ago for a benefit dinner I cooked for in the spring.  The guests at the dinner couldn’t believe they were eating burdock and loved it!  

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