One of Japan’s most commonly used vegetables is burdock root, also known as gobo. This large vegetable offers plenty of nutrition. Appreciated for its flavor as well as its healthy properties, gobo plays a large part in Japanese cuisine.

Burdock root is found throughout much of Eastern Europe, as well as parts of Britain, and even Hawaii and California. However, it’s mainly cultivated in Japan, where it is called gobo. Somewhat resembling a rather long, dirty parsnip (2-3 feet long!), this root vegetable serves as both a culinary component and a medicinal herb.

In Japan, a large number of dishes utilizes gobo. The slightly sweet, earthy flavor of burdock root compliments other root vegetables, such as radishes and carrots, and earthy flavors such as mushrooms. Younger burdock root has a milder flavor and is an excellent addition to salads.

Burdock Root Nutrition

The low-calorie, low-sodium vegetable contains a wide assortment of essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iron, calcium, zinc, and others. It is also a good source of non-starch polysaccharides, which help to improve digestion and reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

The Health Benefits of Burdock Root

As mentioned above, burdock root has served as a medicinal herb, featured in many traditional folk remedies in Japan and many other areas of Europe. The vitamins and minerals in gobo mean that the vegetable contains an abundance of antioxidants. They help to improve the immune system and reduce the risk of various ailments and diseases.

It is also high in fiber and potassium, helping to regulate heart rate and blood pressure. As an herbal remedy, gobo can remove toxins from the blood, improve liver function, and relieve symptoms of throat and chest ailments. Gobo can also be a hangover cure!

How to Prep Burdock Root For Culinary Use

Dry burdock root can stay fresh for several months when kept in a cool place. To prep it for use, you need to remove the woody skin. This is done by wetting the length of the root you intend to use with running water. You can then scrape off the surface with a paring knife. If you want to remove the skin quick, rub the gobo with aluminum foil. It will magically scrub the skin off!

Cut or slice the burdock root and quickly place the pieces in cold water. They will quickly oxidize and turn gray otherwise. A bit of lemon juice in the water also helps to keep them fresh for a short while.

You can then use the burdock root for a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, stews, and stir-fries. Soften the burdock root by boiling it for a few minutes. Then add it to recipes that don’t require cooking, such as a salad. You may also simply sauté the gobo slices in salt and butter, or try them in this delicious and healthy Japanese recipe called Chikuzenni. Another favorite is Kinpira gobo, which is burdock root braised in sake, mirin and soy sauce-based sauce.

Burdock root parts that have been cut but are not being used should be kept wrapped in a damp paper towel, sealed in a plastic bag, and kept in the refrigerator. Use them as soon as possible to avoid spoiling. Finding burdock root in the United States can be difficult—your best chance will be at an Asian supermarket.

Get a recipe for chikuzen ni, very traditional dish of Japan.