Burdock

Arctium lappa

banner

Also great burdock, gobo (Japanese)

Chances are good that if you’ve crunched burdock in the United States, it will have been in a Japanese restaurant—either in the form of a firm filament of orange pickle that runs through sushi rolls, or shredded and cooked with carrots in sweetened soy with sesame (kinpira).

Although the plant is naturalized throughout Europe and North America, it is probably Asian in origin, and it stakes its culinary claim in Japan. “It is thought that the Chinese introduced it to Japan as a medicine about 1000 years ago,” writes Joy Larkcom in Oriental Vegetables, but they do not seem to have eaten it. Nor did burdock make a mark in the kitchens of Europe, although it was common in the pharmacopeia from the Middle Ages, if not earlier.