I was browsing through the chapter on wildflowers which is full of information on how these plants overwinter and the different methods that they employ to spread their seeds.. one drawing that happened to catch my eye was that of the wild carrot, also known as Queen Anne’s Lace. If you are a reader of our blog you may remember that we shared our experience this summer making jelly from the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers.. so needless to say, we have quite a few dried flower stalks from this beautiful plant not too far from our home and we are certain how to identify them. One thing that’s important to remember is that wild carrot is very similar in appearance to poisonous hemlock. An easy way to tell the difference: carrot has a hairy stem, hemlock has a smooth stem. An even easier way to tell the difference: all parts of the carrot plant smell of.. carrot. Hemlock stinks.
I also learned that Queen Anne’s Lace is most likely the genetic originator of the common orange carrot that we all know and love. In a search to learn more about the early cultivation of carrots I discovered that they have been grown for food for at least a thousand years and they have found carrot seeds in sites where prehistoric man lived four to five thousand years ago! If you find this sort of stuff interesting like I do, here’s a link to a very informative article on the history of carrots from the World Carrot Museum of the UK.
What motivated me to head outside to gather some carrot seed, aside from the fact I knew right where to find some, was that Stokes’ book said that the seed makes a “good tasting tea, fun to make after a winter walk.” And that’s really all the motivation I need. So out I went. When the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers are in bloom they are large white unbellates, but now they have curled up into themselves to form a sort of bird’s nest to hold the seeds. The seeds themselves are small and spiny which is how they get dispersed, by attaching to animals as they pass by.
I steeped one teaspoon of the seeds in an 8 ounce mug of hot water for about 10 minutes. The tea had a light brown color and a warm, spicy smell. It had a clean taste with a hint of carrot.. maybe more the carrot leaf than the root itself. I found it to be an enjoyable and warming beverage that was certainly “fun to make after a winter walk.”