Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wild Carrot

So I first posted this as a response to (holy smokes) my first blog question ever (!!), but then realized it was important enough to turn into an actual entry, since I don't want folks confusing me with some sort of actual plant-based authority figure.

Well, ok, I do, but lucky for all of us, in the vast rock-paper-scissors game that is my prefrontal cortex, liability concerns trump ego any day of the week. And thus, the caveats emerge. Ahem:

Re: "can you eat Queen Anne's Lace [aka wild carrot]?", you sure can, but there are several toxic lookalikes (most notably poison hemlock and wild parsnip), so please follow these two tests before harvesting:

First, LOOK -don't touch!- to make sure the stem is hairy and has NO purple spots: if it's smooth and/or spotted, don't touch it! Second, once you're sure that the stem is hairy and totally green, rub the leaves and roots; they should smell exactly like carrots, while other toxic plants smell yucky.

Now for the fun part: food and medicine!

Wild carrot roots get tough quick, so pick them in spring, wash &/or peel (I hardly ever peel anything, but some folks are picky), then boil or pressure cook them until tender and season with dill and butter, or any other way you'd serve carrots - they're great in soups and stews. I've also read that they can be dried and ground to make a coffee-like substitute.

In the summer, you can batter and fry the white flowers to make a really yummy treat (pick the entire umbel so the flowers stay together), or even make jelly with them.

Finally, in fall, you can harvest the seeds from the curled and dried umbel, and use them like caraway seeds on top of breads, or to make tea with, though NOT IF YOU'RE TRYING TO GET PREGNANT, and that's because...

Wild carrot, like most of our wonderful plant-friends, has some great medicinal properties. The seeds specifically are diuretic (helps one urinate, relieves kidney stones, helps lower blood pressure), carminative (prevents and relieves gas & indigestion), antiseptic (reduces/prevents infection), antiparasitic (removes worms), emmenagogual (brings on moontime, whether delayed due to hormonal imbalance, stress, oligomenorrhea, etc.), contraceptive (prevents pregnancy by blocking implantation of fertilized egg), and abortifacient (dislodges fertilized egg from uterus). In both ancient and modern times it's been effectively used as an herbal 'morning-after pill'.

In addition to the seeds, the whole plant has a reputation for treating urinary stones, cystitis, jaundice, gout, edema, and hormone imbalance in both men and women. The oil is used for its skin-softening, healing, and 'anti-aging' properties. And I hear that out west, the root is used for dying yarn, though all the wild carrot sources I've cross-referenced refer to the root as being white, so perhaps that's a different strain/species.

The last word of caution -and I'm only being so specific here because I'd hate for somebody to read something on this blog and then go out and try it w/o properly researching it- is that people who have very photosensitive skin frequently have reactions to the juice of the leaves, so I recommend those folks use caution.

For everybody else, use your eyes, your nose, and your BRAIN when learning about/harvesting wild plants, and for Pete's sake, do your research or find an expert to go foraging with you!

(Confidential to the SH parents - I kept looking, but have yet to find either hemlock or wild parsnip growing on the grounds, at least where we explored, which is why I was down with the kiddos tearing up said greenery willy-nilly. That's not to say it'll stay that way, though - you never know where those pesky seeds will land. I once found a coconut washed up on a beach at least 80 miles from the nearest coconut palm. It was delicious.)

Wildly Yours,
Blackbird's Daughter

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