The Burdocks are now transforming into hedgerow giants. They’ve been raising their heads since March and seemingly growing a few inches every day.
The root of the burdock is probably the most prolific of the wild edible roots. By the end of the summer the first year roots will be reaching carrot proportions, and the second year ones will be turning into wood.
First year Burdock grows large elephant ear leaves but does not go to seed. In the second year the plant grows quicker and developes a tall stalk covered in burrs, the little balls that stick to your clothes, the original velcro.
Here we are digging up an enormous second year root.
Check how hard and stony the soil is (soft soil is much easier) and make sure you’ve got a good trowel or digging stick. Dig around and around the root, deep as you can.
If you cannot reach the very bottom of the root you can cut itoff as deep as possible.
Once you have the root, cut and peel off the outer layer. If it is a first year plant there will be much less to peel off and less woody inedible stuff in the middle.
The root can be added to stews, roasts and used like parsnips or tatties.
Some say the new leaves are good to eat, but we’ve always found them rather too bitter.
The inner part of new stems is palatable and a good nibble.
For medicine, the root is collected in September/October as the plant retreats back to the soil. It is normally chopped into small pieces and dried. A decoction is then made by pouring 1 cup of boiling water to 1 teaspoon of the dried root and simmering for ten minutes.
The tea is one of the best blood cleansers and it moves the body into a state of integration. It tones the kidney and helps with skin ailments.
Externally a compress or poultice (crushed damp root applied to skin) is applied to wounds, ulcers and other skin conditions.
Also used as a weaker medicine for the same ailments are the unripened burrs and new leaves.
You can use the huge leaves for gathering herbs and plants, or wrapping up fish and other foods for cooking in the coals of the fire. If you wrap the wild greens you forage in a burdock leaf, they will keep fresher for longer.
We think the leaves would also make a fine rain and sun hat or small roof to shelter from the rain.