Burdock is any of a group of biennial thistles in the genus Arctium, family Asteraceae. Native to the Old World, several species have been widely introduced worldwide.
Plants of the genus Arctium have dark green leaves that can grow up to 28″ (71 cm) long. They are generally large, coarse and ovate, with the lower ones being heart-shaped. They are woolly underneath. The leafstalks are generally hollow. Arctium species generally flower from July through to October.
The prickly heads of these plants (burrs) are noted for easily catching on to fur and clothing (being the inspiration for Velcro), thus providing an excellent mechanism for seed dispersal. Burrs cause local irritation and can possibly cause intestinal hairballs in pets. However, most animals avoid ingesting these plants.
The taproot of young burdock plants can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. While generally out of favour in modern European cuisine, it remains popular in Asia. In Japan, A. lappa (Greater burdock) is called “gobō” in Koreaburdock root is called “u-eong” and sold as “tong u-eong” or “whole burdock”. Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow about 1 metre long and 2 cm across. Burdock root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavour with a little muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking julienned or shredded roots in water for five to ten minutes. Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear; their taste resembles that of artichoke, to which the burdock is related. Leaves are also eaten in springs in Japan when a plant is young and leaves are soft