Burdock root or edible burdock (gobō in Japanese) is a rather plain-looking root vegetable with an earthy flavor and crunchy texture that makes it popular in many washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) dishes. It’s available year-round these days, but the real season for gobō is from November to February.

Gobō originally came to Japan from mainland Asia as early as the neolithic Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C.). The first written records of the vegetable in Japanese are from the Heian Period (794-1185), when they were used as a medicinal plant, and although burdock is still used in some traditional medicinal concoctions, by the Edo Period (1603-1867) it was being added to a wide variety of everyday dishes.

Burdock adapted well to Japan, and several varieties are now grown all over the country. In some regions the leaves and stems are eaten, but the roots are the main part that is consumed. Gobō may have gotten popular because it is very high in both water soluble and insoluble fiber, making it quite filling — an important quality when food was scarce. It’s also relatively high in carbohydrates, which constitute about 15% of its weight.