Takinogawa Gobo, aka Edible Burdock is a great option if you want to try a new and unusual, but easy to grow root crop in your vegetable garden this season. Here in Central PA burdock is a common weed that is used by some as a medicinal wild plant.
A Few Unknowns when it Comes to Cultivating Edible Burdock
From what I can tell gobo is very similar to, but a little different than the familiar wild burdock. I’m not positive how much difference there is between the wild plant and the cultivated variety, or whether it’s actually the same plant and it just grows differently when planted in fertile garden soils.
I do know that gobo is very easy to grow and will yield a productive fall harvest from a spring planting. It is also rather ornamental with huge elephant ear shaped leaves that hug the ground during the first year and grow more upright the following season.
I left two of the plants standing in the center of a garden bed to follow their growth habit and to possibly collect some seeds. There are no worries during the first year but if you decide to let some go to seed during the second year of growth keep in mind that we are basically talking about a weed that is a risk to spread out of control if you are not careful!
Harvesting; the Challenging Part of Raising Takinogawa Gobo
While very popular in Japan, Gobo is rarely found in U.S. markets, although I have noticed it for sale in a few ethnic or natural food stores. The flavor of the roots in pretty mild and they make a good addition to soups, stews, stir fry recipes, and other dishes.
The roots that I raised grew in an assortment of sizes from thumb thickness to some that were almost wrist sized. I can’t tell you for sure how long they will grow because I was never able to dig up an entire root! My harvesting technique consisted of loosening the soil all around the plant with a digging fork and then pulling. Even more determined efforts to dig the entire root came up short
I was able to gather some impressive roots but there’s no telling how much of the harvest remained deep underground, which led me to consider gobo as a potential cover crop and soil improver which would be capable of loosening sub-soils and bringing up minerals from deep below.
Enjoying Edible Burdock as a Gourmet Vegetable
Some of the harvested roots look like pale colored carrots without a tapered end, while others were branched in unusual shapes more like ginseng roots. I’m still exploring uses and recipes for preparing burdock roots and other parts of the plant. So far I’ve tried them raw and as an addition to soups. Next I’ll try roasting them with other root crops such as carrots, parsnips, salsify, and beets.
If you have a favorite gobo recipe please pass it along, I’d love to try it. Burdock also seems to keep well under simple refrigeration in addition to just leaving it in the ground. So if you have a little extra space in the garden and enjoy growing root crops then gobo is a great edible to add to your rotations.
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