Bird’s Nest

9th January 2013

We’ll carry on today in the same family (Apiaceae) as yesterday’s Hogweed.  This is another one that I get a lot of locally as it tends to like the calcium rich soil of the Chilterns but it will also grow in well drained neutral soils.


Wild Carrot or Bird’s Nest Daucas carota (sorry not quite in focus)

This is Wild Carrot Daucus carota and is the ancestor of the cultivated carrot, but if you looked at the roots of the wild plant you’d be forgiven if you thought there was no relationship.  The roots of Wild Carrot are small, white and unless very young, bear no resemblance to the swollen, orange carrot in your kitchen.  They do however have the same distinctive smell and when young are perfectly edible if somewhat disappointing size wise. In some recipes, things like carrot cake,  they are preferential to their orange cousins as the carrot flavour is more intense.

The seeds of Wild Carrot, like other members of this family contain aromatic oils and have been used as a flavouring in the past, including flavouring beer, but they can induce misscarrige and so shouldn’t be consumed during pregnancy.

The flowers as well can be used. I’ve seen them made into jellies, fried as fritters etc.

The other name for this plant is Bird’s Nest, the name coming from the fact that once the flower is finished and gone to seed the whole umbell closes up on its self, which you can just about make out in the picture. This makes it quite distinctive and so again you can easily at this time of the year see where it is growing. The plant is a biennial (it has a two year life cycle) so later in the year you should find the young plants growing in the same location.  These will stay close to the ground in their first year, storing energy in their roots so by the middle to end of summer the root will have got to it’s maximum size but still be relatively young and tender.

Be aware though that this plant has some very similar looking toxic relatives (see yesterdays post) which it can be mixed up with when there is no flower or seed head to identify it.  Again you nose is your friend, as it’s not just the root that has the strong carroty smell but the leaves too when crushed smell of carrot.

Kev Palmer

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