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The mighty burdock

Sometime last week, I shared with osprey_archer this image of Fergus the Forager, in his suit made of burdock leaves:

(osprey_archer, someone asked him in comments how he made it, and he said he did it by glueing the leaves to a preexisting cloth suit--so it's not like those leaves had to hold up on their own!)

His whole entry on burdock is fascinating. I knew about burdock root as a food, because I prepared it all the time in Japan. My favorite recipe is kimpira gobo, which I'll share before this entry's done. But he has many other recipes, including candied burdock.

But most interesting to me is his photo of the Burry Man of Queensferry (photo comes from Wikipedia via Fergus's blog)

The Burry Man's suit is made of burrs! He makes his suit and walks a circuit of Queensferry, Scotland, on the second Friday in August. Here's what Fergus shared from Richard Mabey's Flora Britannica

At 9am the Burry Man emerges into Queensferry High Street, carrying two staves bedecked with flowers. He walks slowly and awkwardly with his arms outstretched sideways, carrying the two staves, and two attendants, one on each side, help him to keep his balance by also holding on to the staves. Led by a boy ringing a bell, the Burry Man and his supporters begin their nine-hour perambulation of South Queensferry.
The first stop is traditionally outside the Provost’s house, where the Burry Man receives a drink of whisky through a straw.

The perambulating and the drinking go on all day long, and around 6 pm, he returns to the town hall.

Fergus links to the Wikipedia article about the Burry Man, which includes information about making the suit from one guy who served as the Burry Man for twelve years. The entry also includes speculation about the origins and purposes of the ritual. I just like that it's part of something called the Ferry Fair, which I will now think of as the Fairy Fair, since, come on: this has Fairy Folk written all over it.

Here's a picture of the Burry Man from last year's Fairy Fair:

And here he is getting his tipple:

Source: 2013 Ferry Fair

Oh! And now that recipe, so this entry isn't entirely cribbing from other sources, or at least not other online sources:kinpira gobo

That's cut out from a magazine from which I used to order stuff for delivery from a food coop I belonged with, with my neighbors when I lived in Japan. You got approximately 300 grams of gobo (burdock root) for 298 yen--about $3.00, at the time.

Here's the translation:

300 grams of gobo
100 grams of carrot
2 tablespoons of salad oil
2 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of sake
1 dried red hot pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
a pinch of white sesame seeds


Peel the gobo, cut it into matchsticks about 5 cm long, and rinse it in water. Cut the carrots into matchsticks as well. Leaving the seeds out, cut the dried red pepper into tiny rings. Heat the cooking oil, add the well-drained gobo and the red pepper, then add the carrot. When everything is well coated with oil, add the sake. When it comes to a boil, add the sugar, and cook for 3–4 minutes, then add the soy sauce and cook until the fluid is gone. Then add the sesame oil and the sesame seeds.

So. Delicious.


( 55 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 15th, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
Oh wow! A burdock leaf suit! I would so like a shirt like that (though maybe a fabric imitation, to make washing day easier...)

When my hairy spaniel goes snuffling through the burdock in the autumn, he emerges looking like the Burry Man's Dog.
Jul. 15th, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
Do you give your spaniel a small tipple of whiskey when he's burr-laden?
Jul. 15th, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
Sometime last week, I shared with osprey_archer this image of Fergus the Forager, in his suit made of burdock leaves


The Burry Man's suit is made of burrs! He makes his suit and walks a circuit of Queensferry, Scotland, on the second Friday in August.

Okay, I am also impressed by that. I'd never heard of the tradition and if you had shown me photographs without context, I'd have said I was looking at an effigy, not a suit. Assuming it's not a Victorian invention (and if it's actually recorded back to the seventeenth century, I'll believe it's not), that feels very old and very dangerous and I am very glad to know it's still in the world. Guising in ribbons is one thing. Burrs that blind and encumber you are another.
Jul. 15th, 2014 07:42 pm (UTC)
Guising in ribbons is one thing. Burrs that blind and encumber you are another.

And for 9 hours.

Burdock leaf suits sound like something that someone in one of the Arboreal Provinces would make as a spiritual armor or an ensorceled protection from the elements. Can you eat burdock leaves? I think I have had them. I will need to check.

I need to make kimpira gobo some time.

And I wonder if Gobo Fraggle might have been named from the Japanese for Burdock. That seems somehow very appropriate.
(no subject) - cucumberseed - Jul. 15th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 15th, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Jul. 16th, 2014 04:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 16th, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Jul. 16th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 17th, 2014 03:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 15th, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Jul. 16th, 2014 04:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 15th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Jul. 16th, 2014 04:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
It makes sense that he glues the burdock leaves to a shirt, but I'm kind of sad it's not totally made of leaves like a fairy would wear in a story. Still cool, though!
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
I know! It would be great if there were a way to have a shirt of leaves that was strong enough to wear, all on its own. In faery maybe yes; here, not so much.
Jul. 15th, 2014 09:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I really enjoyed reading this.

I've had picked burdock but not candied.
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:09 pm (UTC)
I'm glad!

How was pickled burdock? I've only ever had burdock Japanese style.
Jul. 15th, 2014 09:54 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... like sovay, above, I think maybe the Burry Man was a modern recreation; the 1687 Proclamation is only about the fair and doesn't mention him at all. He certainly looks like an old morris-dancey survival, though.
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:12 pm (UTC)
Definitely possible it's a modern (ish) creation, and if it is, it would go along with things like James McPherson's Ossian forgeries, or building picturesque ruins. Even as a straight-up invention of the nineteenth or twentieth century, it's pretty cool, though!

Edited at 2014-07-16 01:13 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - heliopausa - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2014 10:17 pm (UTC)
Who Knew?
Okay - that's a first for me. I NEVER thought that a ceremony celebrating Burdock would be real. I was wrong.
I suspect the timing and the outfit may celebrate starvation prevention via root consumption (only a guess).
Thanks for the post.
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Who Knew?
My pleasure--I'd never heard of such a thing, either, but celebrating a thing that troubles you seems worthwhile--sort of propitiatory, even.
Jul. 15th, 2014 11:50 pm (UTC)
Oh my! I'd far rather wear the leaves than the burrs. Still fantastic, though.

I'm curious - is dandelion and burdock a popular soft drink over there?
Jul. 16th, 2014 09:44 am (UTC)
The Foreign Minister Mr William Hague previous leader of the Conservative Party. His family made their fortune on bottled drinks and one of their leading brands is Dandylion and Burdock (aerated - fizzy) available at selected stores. For example Kew Gardens at their Tea House. It's more a strange drink like Iron Brew from Scotland which has the flavour of Iron Girders. For popular think Coca Cola or Sprite.
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - desmondcoutinho - Jul. 16th, 2014 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 16th, 2014 10:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashlyme - Jul. 16th, 2014 02:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Jul. 16th, 2014 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2014 12:58 am (UTC)
That is amazing.
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:17 pm (UTC)
I thought so too.
(no subject) - yamamanama - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2014 07:12 am (UTC)
North Queensferry is just across the water (and the Forth Bridge) from my other half's home territory. The Burry man tradition is an amazing survival.

Mmmm! Dandelion and Burdock! :o)
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:18 pm (UTC)
So you've had the drink! It's a good flavor?
(no subject) - cmcmck - Jul. 16th, 2014 01:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2014 07:35 am (UTC)
Never seen budrock, so this was a very informative post for me! You know such interesting things!
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:29 pm (UTC)
I'm touched you think so, but I'm continually impressed by what all my *friends* know, honestly. Including, it goes without saying, you yourself!

And look what being in Sweden has done for your connectivity! You're able to comment! Great to see you :-)
Jul. 16th, 2014 07:56 am (UTC)
That looks like a delicious recipe! I wonder if I'll ever get a chance to try it out.
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:31 pm (UTC)
It's super yummy. I'm sure you can get burdock root, sold as gobo, at an East Asian food market. (Well, I say I'm sure, but how would I know? But I just think you'd be able to. Definitely at a Japanese market, you'd be able to.)
Jul. 16th, 2014 11:09 am (UTC)
Should I look for it in the market? I'm unfamiliar.
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:42 pm (UTC)
I think it's delicious. If you have a Japanese market near you, or an East Asian market, look for gobo. (Japanese for burdock.) It looks like the picture: like small branches (or like what it is: dirt-covered roots).
Jul. 16th, 2014 03:20 pm (UTC)
I've been putting an ointment of burdock and red clover on my blister-sores for the past couple of weeks. It's really sped recovery.
Jul. 16th, 2014 10:51 pm (UTC)
How did you discover the ointment? (I'm glad it's helping a bit--the skin irritation sounds just awful.)
(no subject) - barry_king - Jul. 17th, 2014 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2014 03:47 pm (UTC)
food coop
I did not see the word cooperative when I read this; I envisioned you in a giant pigeon coop on the roof with vegetables growing inside.
Jul. 16th, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC)
Haha! I needed to put a hyphen in there! Co-op! Co-op! But I like the idea of a coop with veggies growing in it.
Jul. 16th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
Haha, I love this about the Burry Man! Local traditions are awesome. Also the burdock leaf shirt and recipe were fascinating!
Jul. 16th, 2014 10:54 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed :-)
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