Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find…..
Dear Readers, this week we are back, yet again, in the cemetery, where there is currently an abundance of wild carrot. I had never really looked at this plant before, but what enthralls me is the way that the plant opens, with the green bracts below the flowerheads forming into what my book describes as a ‘fist’. To me, they look much more like cosy green nests.
One very distinctive feature of wild carrot is that, right in the middle, you can often see a single cherry-coloured flower as in the photo below, standing tall amongst the normal white blooms. Indeed, this has given the plant the name ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ in North America, because the red flower is supposed to be a drop of blood from when Queen Anne pricked her finger. In the UK, Queen Anne’s Lace is a vernacular name for cow parsley. No wonder botanists like to stick to the Latin name. It’s believed that the red flower attracts insects, and indeed the flower does look as if some kind of creature is already sitting there. Wild carrot is a useful companion plant because, like so many umbellifers, it attracts predatory wasps, who will make short work of many pest species. However, be careful as the leaves can cause dermatitis amongst those with sensitive skin.
Domesticated carrots are cultivars of a subspecies of wild carrot, Daucus carota sativus. Both the leaves and root of wild carrot are said to have a ‘carroty’ smell, and I shall have to check this out next time I’m in the cemetery. The young root is said to be edible, though it quickly becomes woody. It is very important not to confuse wild carrot with either Hemlock (which has purple blotches on the stem) or Hemlock Water-dropwort (which is hairless) as both are amongst our most poisonous plants. If in doubt, don’t would be my advice. The flowers can be used as fritters, or to make a jelly, and if you scroll down here you will find a recipe for the latter. Indeed, I recommend The Carrot Museum website for all things carroty, and am only sorry that such a thing doesn’t exist in bricks and mortar. I have seldom been more delighted to find a blog and I have to say that for me it’s one of those sites that makes me grateful that there’s an internet. For example, here is a page on people who make music out of carrots.Just as a random sample, I have selected the group Flutenveg, and can recommend listening to their sample tunes. It’s amazing what you can do with a root vegetable.
But, back to the wild carrot.
Medicinally, wild carrot was used very widely. The red flower was considered to be efficacious in the treatment of epilepsy, but a decoction made from the whole plant has been used for kidney and bladder problems, and for gout. The seeds, bruised, are said to be useful for flatulence, and are said on the Permaculture website to have ‘hints of citrus, cumin, coriander, and caraway.’ They have also been used as anti-lithics, in the treatment of kidney and bladder stones. Historically, wild carrot seeds have also been used as an abortifacient in the early stages of pregnancy (this effect was known to the Romans amongst others), and so the seeds should be avoided by those who are pregnant and want to remain that way. And herewith is the usual warning that wild plants should only be used by those who know what they are doing, and are confident with both their identification skills and their understanding of the properties of the plants that they are working with. Anything else is both disrespectful to the plant, and dangerous to the patient.
Wild carrot can be used to produce a creamy-white dye, and is also, to my astonishment, used by the perfumery industry, though it is largely the aromatic seed that is used as an ingredient. Here is a review of a perfume called ‘I Love Les Carrottes’ by the perfume house Honore des Pres:
‘I Love Les Carottes is a raw, cult, artistic and gentle cocktail of notes which promises a happy ending with a touch of euphoria on a grey, rainy day. It was inspired by carrot and echo of optimistic aromas in sunny winter morning, at time of brunch in New York or after a crazy, sleepless night full of party and euphoric tensions. Its notes introduce joy and health, since carrot is so beneficial. Initiated and inspired by creation of this fragrance, Olivia brought so much love into cooking, defrosting and recooking organic carrot from Harlem, while mixing zests of fresh carrot. She even wrote her recipe – to mix carrot seed characteristic for clear earth aromas with gentle orange aromas, Caribbean vanilla, patchouli and iris root butter. Available as 50ml EDP. I Love Les Carottes was launched in 2010.’
Well. For once in my life I am speechless. Though if someone could create an ‘Eau des Pomme de Terre’, preferably with the Pomme de Terre mashed, I would be most interested. Or even an ‘Eau de Parsnips Roasted’.
But sarcasm aside, I can see that carrot and orange might make quite a pleasant basis for a perfume. And who wouldn’t like a ‘happy ending with a touch of euphoria on a grey, rainy day?’ Sign me up, for sure.
Photo One – Warren Lynn at https://www.flickr.com/photos/warrenlynn/14612829613
All other photos copyright Vivienne Palmer. Free to use and share non-commercially, but please attribute and link back to the blog, thank you!