Harvested, the root was so long it didnt leave the earth without snapping off. Ugly too. It still won a prize at a 'Grow and Show' competition 'unusual' category and then was sacrificed as kinpira gobō.
Burdock roots can apparently grow to a metre long. The root has a reputation as a general herbal remedy and is one of the best blood purifiers.
Burdock leaves are beautiful, grey and furry and the young stems are a soft pink/purple colour. Immature flower stalks can be eaten too. The plants are architectural and grand. Like globe artichokes, they would look lovely in a flower garden. They are related to the artichoke.
The prickly seedheads of burdock are noted for easily catching on to fur and clothing – great for seed dispersal. After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to his dog's fur. Under a microscope, he noticed the hook-and-loop system that the seeds use to hitchhike on passing animals aiding seed dispersal, and he realised that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result was Velcro.
The Royal Horticultural Society defines burdock thus – Arctium lappa - Arctium is from the Greek arktos, (bear) after the rough coated fruits, The common name “burdock” refers to the fruits (burs) , and the large dock like leaves. Lappa is from the Latin lappare, “to seize”, and describes how the burs cling to passing animals.
Shakespeare called it a weed.
Crown’d with rank fumitor and furrow-weeds,
With burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo flowers,
Darnel and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn.
- King Lear
Burdock is cultivated as a vegetable in Japan where it is known as gobo. A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobō - julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and/or sake, and sesame oil. I tried it. It was earthy and sweet. The burdock root smelt like Jerusalem artichoke when cut.
Dandelion and burdock is a soft drink that has long been popular in the United Kingdom.