Burdock Root Recipes

Burdock is not something found in the typical western diet. In fact, even the Chinese, who eat everything, don’t generally eat burdock. It’s only inroads to our diet usually comes in the form of tea. And this is a shame, since burdock is a wonderfully healthy treat, and a good supplemental source of magnesium, fiber and vitamin B6. 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of gobo have 38 milligrams of magnesium, about 11-12% of you daily requirement.

It’s called “gobo” in Japan, and so that’s what we’ll call it here. The trick with gobo is to get over the appearance. It is a long root, and when pulled from the ground it looks like a stick of wood rather than something delicious and filled with an earthy umami flavor.

Gobo rootsHere it is in all it’s glory. You can also buy it without all the dirt, but Japanese consumers believe the dirt helps the gobo retain its flavor. Just be sure to wash it before eating.

And, almost as important, be sure to boil it before eating. Otherwise you really will feel as though you are eating tree bark. The best way to prepare it is to cut it into strips, julienne style. Do this if you plan to eat it directly.

(Gobo is also an excellent addition to soups and stews, giving them extra earthy flavor much like a good mushroom would. If you are using it this way, just cut off once inch portions as needed and add them to the pot.)

Once you have washed and julienned the gobo, it’s time to boil it.

Basically, you do this until it’s tender. Maybe 5 minutes or so is enough. Taste a sample and see if you can chew it without too much trouble. If it’s to stringy or fibrous, give it more time.

Once it’s tender enough to chew you have your gobo ready to go. From this point, there are a variety of ways to go, you can pickle it with sugar, you can deep fry it, you can add it to any saute dish. Two of the most common options in Japan are sauted with carrots, sesame oil and chili peppers, often with some pork added. The second option is gobo salad. In the case, you simply add mayonnaise and carrots (and whatever else you fancy). This can be eaten by itself, or added to a sandwich. The first time I had gobo in a sandwich, it was on top of chicken salad and lettuce. I’d still highly recommend this combination. In my case, I’m happy to make a snack of gobo salad on bread. It fabulous.Gobo Salad Sandwich

Cooking Magnesium Rich Foods

Steamed spinach losing magnesium

Image from: http://www.thefoodinmybeard.com/

There is always the question of whether cooking causes the loss of magnesium in otherwise high magnesium foods. The answer would appear to be, “sometimes.” While many assume that there cannot be any loss as long as the cooking liquid is preserved and consumed (as with soup), and because magnesium is a mineral that cannot be broken downs so easily, there are some exceptions.

Michigan State University has conducted research that suggests the following:

The impact of cooking and processing on magnesium can vary greatly from food to food, since magnesium is found in different forms in different types of food. In some foods, where a greater percent of magnesium is found in water-soluble form, blanching (boiling or steaming for one to four minutes), steaming, or boiling of these foods can result in a substantial loss of magnesium. For example, about one third of the magnesium is lost in spinach after blanching. Similarly, when navy beans are cooked, they lose 65 percent of their magnesium.

In other foods that are rich in magnesium, like almonds or peanuts, there is very little loss of magnesium either from roasting or from processing into almond or peanut butter (as long as the whole almond or peanut is used).

Note that the above includes steaming. When the magnesium is in a water soluble form, it can disappear with the steam. Even with a lid on the pot, steam will escape, though at least some of it can be retained that way. Whether navy beans lose 65% of their magnesium when they are covered or not is something I could not find the answer to. Yet, it seems wise to assume there is some loss.

Spinach is more complicated. Raw spinach contains many phytates and oxalates. While phytates and oxalates are good for you in several ways, they also have the unfortunate effect of inhibiting magnesium absorption. Cooking spinach greatly reduces the phytates and oxalates, but it also reduces the other nutrients, and much magnesium is lost with the water or steam. The million dollar question is whether you lose more magnesium in the cooking than you would from the inhibiting effect of the phytates and oxalates. Such calculations make my head hurt, so I decide by choosing whether I prefer my spinach cooked or raw for each particular meal – and let nature sort it out. It never hurts to have a little variety in your diet.

None of this gives us any strong reason to cook or not cook our foods, but it is good to keep in mind. If you are trying to increase your magnesium levels, try to trap all the steam you can when cooking. If you can’t, just make up for it by eating more magnesium foods elsewhere.

"Please, no! My doctor tells me my magnesium levels are too low as it is!" - Image from theodysseyexpedition.com