digging up gobo

rehfilet
Bento-ing from: › Germany
Joined: 11 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 36 weeks ago.

hello everyone,
and thanks for reading yet another "other food talk" topic from me.
there are a lot of greater burdock plants growing wild in germany, here they are known as große kletten and not eaten. my grandpa once told me the roots were edible. he said they were ok "war food", especially with a bit of rabbit, but "woody" and that he wouldn't eat them as long as he could have real potatoes.
english wikipedia tells me it's the same as gobo, then goes on to say: "Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow about 1 meter long and 2 cm across. Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear."
i didn't know you can eat the stalks. i'll try and collect some this spring.
are there cultivars of this plant or is it really the same as storebought gobo?
and one more question- when are the roots harvested, autumn?
we've got rather heavy soil and i don't want to go digging and end up with a big basket of something useless for cooking.

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Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 37 weeks 5 days ago.
Re: digging up gobo

I'm sorry I know very little about gobo or how it grows. It's most famous in the UK as an ingredient in the traditional drink, 'dandelion and burdock' - which is kind of similar to sarsaparilla (sp?), but I've never much liked either. The namayasai website you've already seen does give a clue as to when it should be harvested in Europe and that's early/mid August.
I've seen gobo translated as salsify, but this seems to be a different root entirely.

Apart from the rootytoottoot factor, I've found that jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes) make a pretty acceptable gobo alternative, particularly for kinpira. These are in season right now and grow very well in the Northern European climate.

Also worth noting is that I've seen, bought and eaten gobo in a range of widths and colours. The Japanese gobo I've encountered has been quite dark, often darker than the example here http://www.namayasai.co.uk/Gobo/gobo.htm and longer and straighter. In shops specialising in Chinese food in London I've seen lighter gobo roots which can be quite fat, but it's always worth picking the thinnest ones as they get hollow (in the way courgettes/zucchini do when they turn into marrows).
As long as you are sure you have Arctium lappa, don't worry too much about the color of the root's skin.

I do hope someone who really knows something about the greater burdock plant can pitch in, but if your grandfather knew about them and said they were edible, he sounds like a fine source of information. They ARE rather woody and must have been a disappointment for a hungry person wishing they had potatoes!

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 1 week 2 days ago.
Re: digging up gobo

The cultivated varieties of gobo that are eaten in Asia are a bit different I think from the wild kind, bred for longer and more tender roots. But if your grandfather says the ones you have are edible, they must be! The way that gobo is treated in Japanese cooking is to scrub and peel it, cut it into whatever shape is required (usually either sliced very thinly, into julienne, or sort of shaved finely rather as if you were sharpening a pencil) then soaked for a while in cold water to get rid of any acrid flavor...which actually doesn't really exist in most modern cultivated varieties, but may exist in the wild kind. So, if you do dig up some wild burdock, you can try treating it like that. Once they are soaked and drained, they can be used for stir-fries, in soups, and so on.

I wouldn't really consider gobo to be a potato substitute though...it is not really a carbohydrate nutritionally speaking. It's mainly eaten for its distinctive fibrous texture and flavor. And it's definitely NOT salsify (Schwarzwurtzel in German)!

My favorite way to prepare gobo is to stir-fry it with sesame oil and some chili pepper, aka 'kinpira' - here is a classic gobo and carrot kinpira - recipe here. It is a standby item for bentos in Japan. (You can buy it readymade in any supermarket or konbini) It also adds a distinctive flavor and texture to soups - eg in kenchinjiru. Since it is impossible to get fresh gobo in the stores in Zürich (very expensive frozen gobo is available...) I really miss it, and smuggle some home...I mean, I think about smuggling some home, I don't actually do it, that's right, hehe. :P

____________________________________

The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

GreenClown
Re: digging up gobo

Gobo is burdock, which grows throughout the northern hemisphere. Both species of burdock are biennial plants - they grow through two full growing seasons before flowering and setting seed and then dying. The gobo roots may be dug after one growing season, up until the middle of the second growing season, at which point the root starts getting woody and inedible. I dig both the roots that I start from seed in the garden as well as wild ones that grow along the garden fence or up the hill at the edge of the meadow. I usually dig some in the first fall, and leave some to dig the following spring. Be prepared to dig down deep to get the whole root - they can grow way down into the subsoil. I cook them in soups, long cooked with black or red beans, sliced thin in nabe pot, or slivered in kinpira with carrot and lotus root.

kumo
Bento-ing from: › Michigan › USA
Joined: 1 Mar 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 5 weeks ago.
Re: digging up gobo

A trifle late, perhaps, but:

GreenClown is entirely correct, and I'd like to add that the flower stalks from the burdock's second growing season are also quite tasty. They should be harvested before they bloom, and can be harvested before the flowers/burrs form. They should be peeled, and then can be stir-fried, added to soups, or whatever takes your fancy. Their flavor resembles artichoke hearts.

If you'd like to try growing some of the cultivated varieties I suggest you check out a catalog from Kitazawa Seed Company, or their web site at www.kitazawaseed.com. They have a great selection of Asian seed varieties and I have ordered from them many times. Did you know that there is a specific gobo variety (called ha-gobo) that is grown for its edible leaves? I may try that one out this year.

Better late than never,

Kumo

rehfilet
Bento-ing from: › Germany
Joined: 11 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 36 weeks ago.
Re: digging up gobo

thanks, everyone, for the answers!
i'll go hunt some wild flower stalks this summer and give them a try.

beach
Bento-ing from: › Georgia › USA
Joined: 3 Feb 2011
User offline. Last seen 1 year 6 weeks ago.
Re: digging up gobo

Anyone know if they grow wild in Georgia? I love eating native plants, especially after discovering that "onion grass" (really just wild onions, I think) gave a nice burst of umami to my shuumai. I tried googling, and I found other indigenous root veggies, but nothing that sounded or looked like the burdock I've seen in the store.

kumo
Bento-ing from: › Michigan › USA
Joined: 1 Mar 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 5 weeks ago.
Re: digging up gobo

Oh yes, they grow wild in Georgia too. Find some pictures online, an herb identification book, or a friend who can identify it for you. Another one you might like is garlic mustard. The young leaves can be added to salads, the older leaves should be cooked, the unopened flower heads can be steamed and eaten like broccoli, and the root makes a nice horseradish substitute.

On another note - Unfortunately, rehfilet, I discovered that Kitazawa only ships within the US. Sorry about that.

Kumo

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