Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Carrots

Our walks over the past few days, have revealed a plethora of plants of the carrot family. Among the most common of these at the moment are the Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata).
The Sweet Cicely is a very useful countryside herb with edible leaves and roots, which have an aniseed flavour and can be eaten both raw and cooked. The leaves are used as an addition to salads and to add flavour other, boiled vegetables. Added to cooked fruits, they will reduce any 'tartness' in the fruit. As if that wasn't enough, the seeds can also be used for adding aniseed flavouring to various other food items. To get the best out of the plant, it's best not to allow it to flower, which seems a shame, as the flowers are also rather nice.
A much larger plant next and one which is in full bloom at this time of year. The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) can reach more than 100ft high and the flowers are held in panicles of up to 1ft long before producing the well known conkers. The conkers contain a poison called Saponin which has a very bitter taste. Although not particularly dangerous, these Saponins pass straight through the body without too much harm being done. Don't try it though, as you might get a nasty surprise and you will need to be able to run very fast! Just enjoy the flowers...
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