Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Every moonbeam

Burdock in wok
Last night I made burdock root for the first time. Here's the recipe I used, and it took much convincing both myself and others. I let the sandy whole plants K. dug up from the garden sit in the sink in water for about a week before I could bring myself to clean them, before I could contemplate eating them. When I first searched online for them, what I was looking for was an effective way to kill them.

Murder them, I should say. Their roots go sometimes three feet deep, according to the internet, and I feel like I've seen them go deeper. Even the smallest, innocent-looking little weed seedling sprouts a massive, impenetrable, herculean root. When they grow, they become tree-like shrubs with purple flowers that quickly turn into clinging prickly seedpods that cling to anything they touch, especially a dog, or a dog's tail, or gloves, or a hat, or my hair.

I hate them. I've been doing everything I can to kill them since the day I figured out what they are, but unless you dig up every last hair of a root, unless you catch and burn every last burr—they sprout up again come spring.
Burdock kinpira with pan-fried whole trout, caught at Lake No. 9 that morning--it doesn't get any more local than that. 
(Except yes, the lemon came from the IGA, and the basmati rice came from Thailand.  Sticklers.)

I knew they were, theoretically, edible. It's one of those rural myths up here. “You know, you can eat burdock.” So I was surprised to discover, that when I searched “best way to dig up burdock root” that what I discovered was urban foragers, Japanese sushi blogs, and how-to sites on making burdock tea. Evidently burdock, called gojo in Japan, and in restaurants where my sister eats, is a food perfectly designed to supplement the immune system, providing mammoth amounts of manganese and vitamin C and who-knows-what-all vitamins.

Still, I had to convince the collected assembly they were not poisonous.

The flavor is unique. I struggle to describe it—something, perhaps, like a musky wild mushroom, an oyster or a shiitake, with a hint of earth and parsnip. Surprisingly delicious, although still tough. I'm not sure if that's because I didn't let them steam long enough, or because I let them sit in my sink for a week, or because they were stringy new ones. In any case, I can check that off my to-do list. And if we ever run out of things to farm, we can always sell dehydrated burdock-root tea.

K. likes to do sushi-style bites.  This is rice with fried bluefish, from Massachusetts last year, and Thai nam chim, sweet chili sauce.  Delectable.

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