Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Queen Anne's Lace ( Daucus carota)

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Queen Anne's Lace

Daucus carota

Queen Anne's Lace, also called "Wild Carrot," is a common plant in dry fields, ditches, and open areas. It was introduced from Europe, and the carrots that we eat today were once cultivated from this plant.

Queen Anne's Lace grows up to four feet tall. Its leaves are two to eight inches long and fern-like. This plant is best known for its flowers, which are tiny and white, blooming in lacy, flat-topped clusters. Each little flower has a dark, purplish center.
Queen Annes Lace

The fruits of Queen Anne's Lace are spiky, and they curl inward to build a "birds' nest" shape.

This plant blooms from May to October. It is a biennial plant, which means it lives for two years. It will spend the first year growing bigger, and then bloom the second year.
Since Queen Anne's Lace was introduced to this country, many people consider it an invasive weed. It will sometimes crowd and compete with native plants.

Some animals have benefited from the arrival of this wildflower. Caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly eat the leaves, bees and other insects drink the nectar, and predatory insects, such as the Green Lacewing, come to Queen Anne's Lace to attack prey, such as aphids.

People can eat the large taproot, which of course, is a carrot. The leaves of the plant, though, are toxic, and may irritate the skin.
Relationship to Humans:

As mentioned above, the taproots of Queen Anne's Lace are carrots, and are edible. Be cautious when handling this plant, though. Skin irritation is common. Also, there is a similar-looking plant, called Water Hemlock, which is deadly to eat. People have died eating what they thought was Queen Anne's Lace. Do not attempt to eat Queen Anne's Lace unless you have a positive identification from an expert! Many people plant Queen Anne's Lace in their gardens to attract insect predators, such as Green Lacewings and ant lions. Queen Anne's Lace will first attract aphids and other small pests, which will in turn attract the predators. Once the predators have arrived, they will continue to eat pests throughout the garden.
A medicinal infusion is used in the treatment of various complaints including digestive disorders, (soothes the digestive tract), kidney and bladder diseases and in the treatment of dropsy, it supports the liver, stimulates the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys. A wonderfully cleansing medicinal herb, an infusion of the leaves has been used to counter cystitis and kidney stone formation, and to diminish stones that have already formed. The seeds can be used as a settling carminative agent for the relief of flatulence and colic.

Wild Carrot leaves contain significant amounts of porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary gland and lead to the release of increased levels of sex hormones, and stimulates the uterus. The plant is also used to encourage delayed menstruation, can induce uterine contractions and so should not be used by pregnant women. The seed is a traditional 'morning after' contraceptive and there is some evidence to uphold this belief. An essential oil obtained from the seed has also been used cosmetically in anti-wrinkle creams. A strong decoction of the seeds and root make a very good insecticide.
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Folklore
The name 'Carrot' is Celtic, and means 'red of color,' and Daucus from the Greek dais to burn, signifying its pungent and stimulating qualities. An Old English superstition is that the small purple flower in the center of the Wild Carrot was of benefit in curing epilepsy.

Recipe

"Medicinal" tea: To 1 OZ. of dried herb add 1 pint of boiling water steep l0-l5 min. drink three times a day.
Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

18 large Queen Anne's lace heads
4 Cups water
1/4 Cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 Package powdered pectin
3 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp. sugar

Bring water to boil. Remove from heat. Add flower heads (push them down into the water). Cover and steep 30 mins. Strain.

Measure 3 Cups liquid into 4-6 quart pan. Add lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly. Add sugar and stir constantly. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil one minute longer, then remove from heat.

Add color (pink) if desired. Skim. Pour into jars leaving 1/4" head space. Process in hot water bath for 5 mins.

Makes about 6 jars.

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