BURDOCK (Articum lappa), also known as Gobo and Watanabe, Beggar's Buttons and Love Leaves, is a unique heirloom herb and beloved Asian culinary green. A member of the thistle family, it is a stout and handsome plant with large, wavy leaves and round unusual purple flower heads which Shakespeare called burs. In fact they owe their dissemination in the wild to this feature. But it is the root, similar to parsnip but with an unusual and satisfying bitter edge, for which most grow. It is an excellent source of B Vitamins and minerals. [Of note: The root is sold in Asian markets with dirt still on it because if washed the attached greens wilt quickly. When peeled, the white flesh darkens quickly, so as you prepare, soak in vinegar until ready to cook.] Grows 3-4 feet high. Thrives in deeply spaded soil, sun to part shade. Sow in Spring 1/2" deep 2" apart. Keep moist until germination. Thin to 6" apart. Harvest first year. Biennial. 50 seeds.
MEDICINAL: The dried root of the first year's growth as well as leaves and fruits, are used medicinally. This is one of four anti-cancer herbs included in the Essiac® formulary. A blood purifier used internally, and recent animal studies show promise as a liver protectant and for kidney stones. Effective diuretic. Mildly antibacterial and antifungal. Externally used for skin diseases, wounds, ulcers, tumors and swelling. It is still eaten as a vegetable in some cultures, including Japan, where it is called Gobo.