Adapted from the Foraged Foodie’s Burdock & Pokeweed Fritters
Makes 8-10 fritters
Disclaimer: Pokeweed, if not prepared properly, retains a high concentration of toxins. If you are uncomfortable handling pokeweed, eschew it and use a leafy green like spinach instead.
This recipe for fritters and sauce is a celebration of the return of warmth and growing things. Two of the components can be foraged in the spring and summer across most of North America—a true taste of the continent’s terroir—and the chipotle marinara showcases the flavors of ripened tomatoes and chiles. The fritters themselves are composed of chopped pokeweed (fresh and green and mildly tingly on the tongue) and earthy puréed burdock root. Paired with the sweet, silky, and slightly spicy chipotle marinara, these crispy fritters are a treat during the warmer months.
In the spring and summer, I like to think of my yard as the produce section of a grocery store right at my fingertips, even if I haven’t had time to plant a vegetable garden. So many plants that are considered weeds are edible and readily available in one’s backyard, so long as you know how to identify, harvest, and prepare them properly. This is the case with pokeweed, also known as American pokeweed and poke salat. Although considered a toxic plant, the young leaves of pokeweed are a delicious edible and a staple in the South, especially in Appalachia. It grows throughout North America, though—not just in the South—in fields and pastures, at forest edges, and in less-than-perfectly attended yards. Once boiled, the leaves have the taste and texture of spinach, with a hint of asparagus flavor and an added subtle tingle on the tongue that makes it a much more complex and interesting bite than mere spinach. (For more on identifying and dealing with pokeweed, check out Delishably’s “How to Identify, Harvest, and Prepare Pokeweed and Poke Sallet.”)
The starchy element in this fritter recipe is also a foragable ingredient—burdock, which tends to grow in the same environments as pokeweed (if it doesn’t grow nearby, I’ve found it sold in my local Asian market too under the name “gobō”). Unlike the pokeweed plant, all parts of burdock are edible; above the ground, its appearance is similar to rhubarb, but for the purposes of this recipe it’s the long, thick root we’re after. When peeled, chopped, and boiled, you can treat it very much like a boiled potato, if a potato had a slightly earthy and nutty flavor, and it makes a more nutrient-rich starch for our fritter. (For more on uses and preparation of burdock, see Common Sense Home’s “Burdock: Identification, Benefits, Uses for Food and Medicine.”)
2 large mixing bowls’ worth of fresh pokeweed
3 cups burdock root, peeled and sliced into thin coins
2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (such as Rao’s)
6 chipotles, finely chopped, plus a little of the adobo they were canned with
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup chickpea flour
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
½ tsp oregano
Olive oil, for frying
Bring two large stock pots of salted water to a rolling boil; add the pokeweed to one, and the burdock root to the other. Insert a wooden mixing spoon into each pot to break the surface tension and keep the pots from boiling over. Cook the pokeweed and burdock 30 minutes each, until the burdock is super tender. To be really safe if you’re not used to cooking with pokeweed, change out the water two or three times and resume boiling, so as to flush out the toxins; the cooked leaves should have a mild tingle on the tongue, but not cause any actual irritation to the mouth.
While the vegetables are boiling, prepare the chipotle marinara sauce. In a medium saucepan, bring the marinara, chipotle, adobo, and garlic to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer to let the flavors mingle and keep it warm until the fritters are ready.
Drain the pokeweed into a colander and press as much water out of it as possible, then transfer to a clean cutting board and chop. Place the chopped pokeweed in large mixing bowl. Drain the burdock root well and purée until smooth either in a food processor or in a mixing bowl with an immersion blender, then add to the mixing bowl with the chopped pokeweed. Add the eggs, chickpea flour, cumin, salt, paprika, black pepper, and oregano to the mixing bowl with the pokeweed and burdock. Mix well until you have a homogenous mixture. If the mixture seems a little too soggy, press out the extra moisture with paper towels.
Form the pokeweed and burdock mixture into 8 to 10 patties, about 4” across and about 1/2” thick, placing the patties on a clean cutting board as you make them.
Heat about 2 TBSP olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. You’ll be frying the patties in two batches. Once the oil is shimmering, add 4 or 6 patties (enough to make a good batch without the patties touching), and let sear without moving them for 3 minutes on each side. Remove to paper towels to drain, adding a little more oil if necessary, and do the second batch.
Serve hot with the chipotle marinara on the side.