There are a lot of perennial vegetables I work hard to get my hands on, coax into growing, beat the weeds off. While I’m sure it will pay off once all this gets established, there is far more virtue in figuring out how to use the perennial vegetables that are weeds themselves.
Burdock is a prime example. I planted a few “Takinogawa” burdock raised from seed in the willow garden a few years ago. In a shady corner, seldom weeded, it thrives, seeding with abandon.
I noticed as I walked by today a bunch of little burdock leaves unfurling and figured these would be prime candidates for tasting. So I grabbed a shovel, shoved it in the ground by each plant and just lifted enough to let me break the clump in half to get at the deep root. Root out, I sank the clump back down without turning.
Most of these are second year plants, some first year plants that sprouted late last summer. Largest diameter I dug was half an inch.
Back at the house I searched for recipes and found this website. She described them as hearty and crisp; there was one recipe that sauted the juliened roots with vinegar and sugar; I thought soup.
She mentioned peeling the roots, which I thought would leave me with nothing, but found a light scrape with a paring knife was suffucient as the skin is pretty thin. I put the peeled roots in water to keep them from discoloring.
To julienne, I cut the larger ones in half, then laid them on the flat side to finely slice. The smaller ones I just made a single cut down the middle.
I sautéd the roots in lard (from our animals; see Earth movers) until they began browning at the tips. I did them in two batches to keep from crowding. I did the same with some tiny perennial leeks from the food forest and added those to the burdock.
I tasted one of the burdock french fries and found it a bit stringy and downright bland. I expected a strong bitter flavor though, so considered this a bonus.
I threw the roots back into the pan with some beef stock (thick stuff cooked more than 72 hours) and threw a raw “Ishikura” onion on top to wilt.
I added some black pepper and vinegar, and that was that. And that was very, very good.
I’ll probably omit a lot of the formalities in future preparation, but it’s definitely something I will prapare again. With the wildly prolific supply, that can be again, and again.