Blossom and Burdock

27th February 2013

To make up for the lack of diary entry we’ve got two for the price of one today.

The first Wild Plums Prunus domestica was spotted in this neck of the woods. In other parts of the country this has been out for a bit but the continued low temperatures in central and eastern England seem to have delayed its appearance.

Sloe blossom Prunus spinosa (photo taken by Jay Jenner)


Not only can these highly visible online pharmacy splashes of pure white against the otherwise dark hedgerows allow you to plan where to collect your plums later in the year, the blossom its self has a pleasant almond like flavour that makes an interesting addition to salads or a wayside snack.  They are best when flower buds have just opened as they start to loose flavour from then. They can also be used to make an alomond flavoured syrup by infusing the flowers in a sugar solution.   Some references advice against eating  too many of the blossoms as the almond taste comes from a toxic chemical called amygdalin which is converted to the even more toxic hydrogen cyanide when they are crushed, but you would need to eat very large quantities for it to be a significant risk.  Apparently when extracting the almond flavour into a syrup the resultant syrup is not hazardous. Don’t forget that for every blossom you pick there will be one less plum to eat later.

The blossom are out for about 3-4 weeks with the leaves appearing  just as they start to drop.  Because they flower so early they are susceptible to late winter/early spring storms and frosts which will obviously affect the plum harvest in Autumn.


Another find were the tiny emerging first leaves of some Lesser Burdock Arctium minus which we looked at in an earlier post.

Lesser Burdock Arctium minus

Without digging it up, I couldn’t be certain but I would hazard a guess that this would be a second year plant.  Burdock is biennial which means it has a two year life cycle. At the end of the first year the leaves all die off, but the large root stock lies dormant in the ground.  In spring it will start to put up new leaves, by having the root provide the energy for this they tend to get a head start over the first year seedlings which need extra time for seeds to germinate.  The root of this specimen would be fine to use but they can get a bit woody and earthy tasting in their second year.


Kev Palmer

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