British Root Beer

Alongside the North Saskatchewan River right now there are loads and loads of burdock plants. So many, in fact, that the parks people are busily cutting off their heads. They are not native to the area and have become invasive, so the workers are trying to stop them from going to seed and spreading any further.

The plants are, however, quite pleasing to look at and I took a few photos.

 

Before there was American Root Beer, there was British Dandelion and Burdock Beer. It can be made as either a soft drink or as an alcoholic beer, and there is a variety of recipes for both.

Legend has it that it was invented by St. Thomas Aquinas who asked God for inspiration while he was walking in the woods. Then, shazam, he saw both dandelions and burdock and thought he should put them together in a drink.

 

The recipes call for grinding up the roots of both plants and putting them in a pot of water with things like ginger, vanilla, sugar, and anise. I have not tried this, so please don’t take this as a recommendation. The only  person I know of who has tried to make the soft drink said hers tasted awful, and my guess is she should probably have added more sugar. That usually helps my recipes that taste awful.

Burdock root is supposed to have some health benefits, including purifying the blood and strengthening the lymphatic system, but I’m pretty sure that hasn’t been  proven by the Federal Drug Administration in the US or the World Health Organization. Even so, it is probably worth a try if you are unable to get medicines that have been tested.

Regardless, I recommend that you don’t put the burdock leaves into your dandelion and burdock drink. They aren’t toxic but they are really, really bitter.

When I was a child, I remember rubbing dock leaves on my legs to counteract the sting of nettles, but I don’t know if those were the same as burdock leaves or different leaves altogether. Either way, it worked.

So, there you have it; a mixed blessing. A pretty plant that we don’t really want taking over our riverbanks but that has roots you can make into a drink.

 

13 Comments

  1. Up close photos make the burdock plants look attractive. However the final photo seems to show how truly invasive they are. “Off with their heads” seems to fit the occasion. Was that the Queen of Hearts? Maybe her burdock beer was bitter that day?

      1. Thinking of the farm workers in the Central Valley in California now. Maybe they could be paid by each burdock head they cut. Could not be much easier than picking the crops in the burning sun, crops that grace our dinner tables. What a sad tale that is.

          1. Interesting question. I’m not sure if the same applies across the board as far as pay, but they are paid $7 per bucket (which must be a couple of gallons at least) for blueberries. I’m sure you remember the tiny plastic boxes we can buy blueberries in from the stores at around the same price as the buckets. Story recently about a woman who is the child of farm workers. She is in medical school, I believe, becoming a doctor but she returned to the fields this summer picking blueberries and her story was published. Very few, if any, Americans will work the fields…not enough pay, poor conditions, etc etc. We really are dependent upon the mainly Mexican farm workers. Presently the Central Valley is a Covid hot spot. 😦

  2. We are not used to our bitters in North America. Some cultures insist on having all five tastes in all meals, and that sounds wise. There is a story that the First Nations when traveling after the buffaloberry bean bloomed, that meant that the buffalo herd were migrating, well they knew a great place to set down for camp if there was burdock growing. I didn’t know it was healthy beneficial too. It is so often just labelled as an invasive that no one sets much store by it anymore. Dandelions are super healthy, and it is a shame so many people eradicate it instead of their lawn

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