Wild Carrot – Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota

Wild Carrot - Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota)
Wild Carrot – Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Queen Anne’s Lace is yet another weed often reminding me of childhood. More often than not I would spot an occasional ant crawling around the blossom, which at that time, led me to believe its name to be “Queen Ants Lace”. I reasoned that the single purple flower must represent the Queen and the worker ants  walked the flower to pay tribute. You gotta love a child’s logic! Even so, I can remember pulling up the plant and smelling the very distinguishable carroty aroma from its roots. I even confronted my Mother about this discovery. However she made it very clear that I should not eat it, as it was “poisonous”. It wouldn’t be for another 16 years till I reconsidered its edibility.

wild edible carrot queen anne's lace
Queen Anne’s Lace famous flower “nest” loaded with sticky seeds waiting for an unsuspecting carrier.

Did you know?

Queen Anne’s Lace real name is Daucus carota and is actually a wild version of the domestically farmed Carrot!  It was years of selective breeding which has transformed the wild carrot into the larger, sweeter, and more crisp version that we’re all familiar with. The species name carota is latin for Carrot which has been recognized by the Old World as a food and medicine throughout the ages. All parts are edible providing a wide range of culinary uses.

First year roots, harvested and ready to be cooked.
Wild Carrot’s first year roots are good cooked or raw. Mince the fresh leaves and use as a spice for soups and stews or add to a salad.

Wild Carrot is a biannual growing its vegetation the first year, sending up a flower stalk and going to seed in the second year. First year roots are best harvested in the spring or fall when they are most tender. Second year roots will become stringy and woody as the plant fully matures. However during this time the flower stalk can be peeled and eaten as a crisp ‘carrot flavored’ vegetable either raw or cooked. The flower itself can be used as a flavoring agent, to garnish meals, or eaten as a vegetable, and the seeds may be used as a spice or brewed for tea.

Genetically it's believed that Wild Carrot is the direct progenitor to our modern Carrot.
Genetically it’s believed that Wild Carrot is the direct progenitor to our modern Carrot. Steamed Wild Carrot root as seen in the foreground compared to its enhanced brother in the background.

Carrot is a great source of Beta-carotene (Vitamin A), Vitamin K, C, Biotin, Carbohydrates and natural Sugar. Its nutritional content promotes a healthy immune system, healthy eyes, hair, skin and nails. (For a great article on the many benefits of Carrots as well as a complete nutritional analysis click HERE)

wild carrot
Wild Carrot is highly adaptable and has quickly naturalized itself around most of the world. It can be spotted growing in fields, meadows and garden beds year-round.
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A relative of the Parsley, you can see the resemblance in its leaves. Also a relative of the Parsley is Poison Hemlock. Before harvesting be confident in the noticeable differences between Wild Carrot and Poison Hemlock.

Traditionally,

Daucus carota has been used to treat the bladder, kidney and liver. It has been reported to increase the flow of urine helping in the aid of kidney waste removal, countering the formation of kidney stones. The leaves have been reported to act as an aphrodisiac, while the plant may delay menstruation. The seeds are an old-time contraceptive and should not be used by pregnant women. An essential oil from the seeds can be applied to counter wrinkles.
More medicinal information can be found in the following articles:
http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/look-powerful-medicinal-properties-wild-carrots
http://www.altnature.com/gallery/wildcarrot.htm
http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/carwil25.html


Wild Carrot and its Poisonous cousin.

wild carrot poison hemlock
Wild Carrot on the left compared to Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) on the right.

If you are relatively new at foraging you may discover what is known as a “lookalike”. Knowing the desired plant intimately will help you avoid mistaking it with any imposters. Wild Carrot may have a few different lookalikes but often times its spotted growing in close proximity with Poison Hemlock. Observe the photos below to see the most significant differences between these two relatives of the Parsley.

hairy stems
More often than not Wild Carrot is covered with fine hairs over most of the branch and leaf stems.
hairless purple stem
Poison Hemlock is hairless, smooth and typically has purple spots or streaks coloring the stems.
carrot stalk
The flowering stalk of Wild Carrot is also covered with fine hairs never coated with white film.
hairless stalk white film
The flower stalk of Poison Hemlock however is both hairless and has a white film that can easily be scraped off.
flowerThe flower of Wild Carrot is borne on a stem forming a large tightly compact umbel, all white with the typical single purple flower in the center.
The flower of Wild Carrot is borne on a stem forming a large tightly compact umbel, all white with the typical single purple flower in the center.
hemlock flower
Poison Hemlock blooms often have multiple flower stems borne off of a main stalk, they are not as dense as the Wild Carrot and lack the single purple flower.

The most significant identifiable feature of the Wild Carrot is its carroty aroma. Crack a root in half and take a good whiff… ah… carrot! Poison Hemlock, Fools Parsley and Yarrow as well as carota’s many other lookalikes simply lack that intense carrot scent, if not smelling entirely different at all. With some practice of comparison, soon you can enjoy this widely abundant and highly nutritious root vegetable.

Till next time… Happy Foraging!

-Henry H.

(Search other wild edible’s in our >>Plant Index<<)

Remember…
If you ever have any doubt identifying, simply do not eat it!

 

Recipes

Click on a picture for the following recipes.

Wild Carrot Cake
Wild Carrot Cake
Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake
Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake (top part of article)
Wild Carrot Seed Sauce (bottom part of article)
Wild Carrot Seed Sauce (bottom part of article)
Queen Anne's Lace Jelly
Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly

 

 

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