Takinogawa Gobo; a Common Weed or Valuable Edible

May 19, 2011

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.

Add Gobo to the list of my other favorite plants with a wild and uncultivated background. They include lambsquarters, chickweed, stinging nettles, dandelions, and now burdock.

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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  • Shreela

    About how big a container would grow this burdock? I’m guessing if some of those were almost your wrist size, it would probably need a huge container?

  • Kenny Point

    I would use a deep container for burdock, but confined to a container it would just not get as large as it would if planted in the ground.

  • I have been wondering what these guys were! We have them growing (by their own accord) around our brush collection spot/newly created composting center, and under our cherry tree.

    I am pretty darn new at “homesteading” (as I like to call it), being a city-girl gone ‘country’. I was SO TICKLED to find that you, too, are in PA…I’m in State College. Your site has been a BLESSING. I thank you profusely for all of the information you have on offer here; your site has become my gardening handbook. Keep it coming! Thank you for your generosity in sharing your wisdom!

  • Luke

    What do the roots taste like?

  • I love edible weeds – plenty of wild mustards and turnips in my garden! I also enjoy dandelion greens.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Dianna, thanks for visiting this site! Burdock does grow wild throughout PA. You are very welcome and I will continue to share my gardening experience with you.

  • Kenny Point

    Luke, the roots are very mild flavored and don’t really stand out when mixed with other ingredients.

  • Jean

    06-24-11 Just wanted to let you know that my Italian Papa used to gather wild burdock STEMS when the leaves reached about 3 feet high. They need to be gathered before the plant starts to grow any higher. Papa said they were no good beyond that, so harvest toward the end of May or early June in the Northeast. The sap will turn your hands black so Papa used to wear gloves to handle them. Cut the leaves off then string the stems like you would cellery ribs. Then the stems would be dipped in egg, rolled in flour and fried in a few inches of olive oil. Salt the egg or salt the cooked burdock as soon as they come out of the frying pan. They are mild tasting and good eaten hot or cold.

  • Fantastic article on GOBO – I just learned about many beneficial properties to root – including the fact that it was the inspiration to a tremendous 20th century invention – watch my video for what it led to

  • Jen

    My mother’s friend grows these in garbage cans (the kind you leave out at the curb), clean ones, of course. Then when it’s harvest time, he just knocks the cans over and carefully scoops the soil out, so he gets the entire root.

    Here’s a video (in japanese but easy to follow) for kinpira gobo, a popular japanese dish:

    First he peeled the gobo and cut it in matchsticks (about 4cm long). You can see he soaked them in water for a bit. About 10 min is fine.
    Then he heats the pan and pours in a bit of sesame oil.
    After sauteeing the gobo, he puts in matchsticks of carrots.
    Next is a tiny splash of sake (optional).
    Next is a bit of mirin (sweet, japanese cooking wine), a bit of sugar, followed by soy sauce and that’s it! I really like adding black sesame seeds at the end.

    You can also cut them into matchsticks them and enjoy them as tempura. The trick there is you have to hold a few (4-5) battered matchsticks of gobo together in the hot oil with chopsticks so that they keep together. So it can be a bit tedious to do several batches of tempura gobo, but pretty tasty!


  • Kenny Point

    Jen, thanks for the idea about growing gobo in a trash can or cylinder, I may have to try that one. The gobo recipe also sounds good!

  • Yesterday I was on a self-guided bike tour of 4 veggie gardens around my city, & in the Community Garden, there was a lovely Gobo at the end of a row in one of the ‘personal gardens.’ The other half of the garden is planted in produce which goes into food baskets, it’s a lovely community service!
    Susun Weed has burdock as one of her 7 favorite daily use herbs in “Healing Wise,” and lists uses of all parts of the plant in different seasons! Her ‘quick root’ has you chop fine & saute with various other roots. I often add a bit of dried root to rice at the beginning of the cooking time – just melts in.
    Like you, I enjoy my ‘weeds’ – have been growing Quinoa & Amaranth, & just discovered Magentaspreen, a cultivated lambsquarter that has lovely fuscia frosted tips! One of the local Farmers adds it to their mixed greens, or in seperate bunches (calling it Magenta Spinach, as it is one of those older chenopods). Good in salads or cooked – & Melissa at gluten free for good recently used it as a pizza topping – mmmm.

  • I’ve tried eating the root of wild burdock, a half dozen or so times and found the taste too strong. Maybe that’s because of my particular taste preferences and/or the fact that I was using the root full-strength, that is, not as a flavoring accompanying some other food. My method was to cut the root crosswise every quarter inch, boil in water for 40 minutes or so, pour away the water, process the root in a food processor with oil, salt and sugar. The boiling and draining reduces the strong flavor. The oil, salt, and sugar made the taste acceptable and pleasant if I added a bit more of those ingredients than seems healthy. But to each his own. For me, such a strong flavored food made an ounce or so serving at a meal about all I wanted.

    Best wishes,
    Alan Detwiler: rural resident, gardener, and advocate of self sufficiency and resilient living. Bio at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/alandetwiler

  • Csilla Gates

    Here is my fav gobo soup, dinosaur soup. Enjoy:)

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