Wild carrot , birds nest
( Daucus carota )
The wild carrot has easily got to be the most distinctive and easily identified member of the Umbelliferae family it grows to an average knee height with a tough stem covered in tiny hairs with a umbell of white flowers with a central purple spot in the middle of the head , when the seeds begin to form the head closes and takes on the nest like appearance many are familiar with .
This little plant offers some great additions to the wild food larder and I’m sorry to burst anyone’s bubble but it doesn’t include carrots in fact I find it quite frustrating when people presume that because it’s a carrot it will yields a nice orange vegetable when in truth 99% of the time it yields a wirery pale root resembling a anorexic parsnip .
Which is only even remotely pleasant to eat at the end of the first years growth when the plant stores sugars to send up a flower in its second year and even then it is real bitter to taste , before that it’s like string and after that it is bigger but it’s woody and has a strong acidic smell and taste .
Also if you manage to find one of a good size it will still be only finger thick and stringy and nearly impossible to dig up , in fact the only time I have managed to dig up the roots without it being a waste of time was on the coast in sandy soil .
There is reference that caution should be taken when harvesting wild carrot as it similar to poison hemlock and fools parsley ,to be honest it may well from a distance but close inspection it is quite different and a simple look at the stalk to check that it has hairs is all it needs ,
There are some real nasty members of this family always check and double check before any plant is harvested if in doubt simply don’t ,
I’ve seen many suggestions that the carrot is edible and tastes of carrot well I have to ask myself what are they eating because that is far from my experience please don’t uproot this plant it is not a viable edible root .
Now that said it does offer one of my favourite wild seeds and they are easy to harvest they go really well in Eastern cooking and as a flavouring to add to a bread mix just be aware they are strong and few are needed .
Also the nest itself one great picking food for dinner as deep fried flower heads and carrot blossoms are nice before they seed i remove the brace as it tends to be tough so in my view our wild carrot offers seed and flowers to our larder no more is needed as these are great on there own.
Carrots are quite well documented throughout history but not so much as a food but more of a medicine there is speculation of the seeds being used in food as a herb in prehistoric digs in Switzerland but there is factual evidence of the root and seeds being used as a medicine in text throughout time although an exact time in history that it changed from a medicine to a food has not been made as in the Middle Ages distinction between parsnip and carrots was mixed and confused .
You’ve also probably listened to story’s about carrots being made orange through cross breeding for a present for William of orange well it’s not even a little bit true in fact the oldest recorded carrots were purple and yellow and recorded in what is now Afghanistan and through time they were breed to be more pleasant in taste but originally the colour was breed out as it is recorded as staining any cookware not as exciting as the William of orange story but fact ,
Medicinal property’s recorded for the roots and seeds are vast and it was obviously used and held in high regard and our wild carrot is still far higher in medicinal qualities than the shop bought chemically engineered ones on offer today .
Carrot seeds have been studied within child birth and antifirtility and should not be eaten whilst pregnant or indeed trying to conceive .
Dioscorides wrote “Ye root ye thickness of a finger, a span long, sweet-smelling, edible being sodden [boiled]. Of this ye seed being drank…and it is good for ye [painful discharge of urine] in potions, and for ye bitings and strokes of venomous beasts; they say also, that they which take it before hand shall take no wrong of wilde beasts. It cooperates also to conception, and it also being [diuretic], both provoketh [poison], and being applied; but the leaves being beaten small with honey, and laid on, doth cleanse rapidly spreading destructive ulceration of soft tissues.” (Mitch, 1998)