Eaten as a vegetable, burdock root ( Arctium lappa) has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, and is used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. It is also given as a tonic for colds, throat infections and flu. The roots contain non-starchy polysaccharides that have diuretic, laxative and prebiotic effects, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is a useful source of potassium without added sodium, so it helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It also contains small quantities of vitamins and minerals.
Burdock is a weed in New Zealand, but selected varieties produce larger, more useful roots. ‘Takinogawa Long’ (Kings Seeds) has 1m roots. Sow seeds directly into well-dug garden beds from late spring to early autumn. Peel and grate young roots into salads, or roast or stir-fry.