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Do you know the Burdock Boy?

Do you know the Burdock Boy?
March 25, 2010 Mary Jo

Teething is hard, hard work.  It seems to be a perpetual cycle of good days full of non-stop smiles, interspersed with rough days of sore gums, drooling, and extreme tenderness.  It was on one of these tender days when we fell into a soothing solution entirely out of necessity.

We had been out on our weekly pilgrimage of errand-running, a marathon event that attempts to choreograph all of our in-town errands into a single morning or afternoon or entire day, depending on the size of the To Get list.  The grocery-buying part of that list usually falls towards the end of the trip, making it a sometimes dicey proposition for two children who’ve missed their naps.  Enter teething into the mix and it’s the making of a disaster.  But it’s a 35 minute drive from home to the food coop, in a gas-guzzling minivan, no less, so we can’t hardly turn around and go home empty-handed.  And trying to fulfill the shopping list at the local grocery store would only gain us blank, puzzled looks and head shakes of the ‘no, I don’t think we carry that’ variety.  Goat’s milk, miso, celeriac, tamari, seaweed, collards, burdock…not exactly the normal grocery fare.

So there we were, about to enter a firestorm of screaming and crying and maybe going without food that week.  The Boy arched his back, trying to fight the strapping-into-the-shopping-cart ritual, The Girl pleaded her case for using a child-size cart that she could push, (no way!) and we hadn’t even made it into the store yet.  I flipped into my Momma Survival mode, condensing the list to must-haves, the shortest possible route, and braced myself.  Maybe I can buy some time? Quick – what can he chew on to soothe those gums?  Scanning, scanning, scanning.  Burdock!

I handed The Boy a piece of burdock root out of sheer desperation, and he took to it like a fish out of water.  He gummed it, shredded the end with his existing teeth, and took the whole shopping trip to do it.  It happened to be the same week that horseradish root was available, and I got quite a few puzzled looks and questions from other shoppers mistaking the root he was chewing for horseradish or ginger.  Of course not, I replied, that would be mean.  (haven’t you ever seen a boy gum a burdock root before?)

This has gone on for some time now; it’s almost a grocery shopping ritual.  He’s been received with much fanfare and I suspect he may be getting a reputation as ‘that cool baby who loves burdock.’  It is, after all, a natural foods coop, where a baby chewing on something so earthy and pure would obviously be lauded with much approval and admiration.

If you’ve never yourself chewed on a stick of burdock root, you’ll not know of the unique metallic taste it has.  I like chopping it up into tiny pieces and sauteing it with the garlic, onions, celery (celeriac), and carrots that I’m throwing into a soup or baked dish.  I know that some eat it sauteed on its own (like in Japanese cuisine), but my palate is not a fan of the flavor, so I must sneak it in quietly, where it can blend with other flavors.  The fact that Errol seems to really like the flavor makes us shake our heads in wonderment.  Rock on, little guy!  I try to cook with it as much as I can because it’s just loaded with great nutrients and mildly medicinal properties.

The burdock root offered in our food coop is grown locally by a large CSA farm.  If you think it’s silly to buy a root that grows in abundance in your back yard, like I did at first, I recommend you step outside and try harvesting your own, without using a backhoe.  Report back to us and tell us how it went.  The root Errol is chewing in the above photos cost me $1.50 or less; it’s our version of ‘fast food,’ I guess, buying it ready-picked.

To really do this story justice, however, I’d need to have brought a camera with me to the Coop, to give you an honest-to-goodness visual of The Boy in the cart chewing on burdock, making other shoppers stop in their tracks.  Their approval stops just short of applause.  I suck it all up like a burst of sunshine, feeling like an awfully good mother on that particular day, quite proud of my boy who digs the burdock.  Little do they know it could have just as easily been a carrot, had it been shelved closer to the entrance of the store.

But how boring that story would be?

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