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.