Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace looks delicate, but its fruit’s pungent flavor and spice is anything but dainty. The flowers of the wild carrot, or Queen Anne’s Lace, are as edible as the stringy root — but the culinary gem is its fruit. Because each fruit is so small and the harvest window is relatively short, I hadn’t even noticed them until recently. But when I looked closely, I could see that each cluster was full of hundreds of small, eye-shaped fruits.

I picked the bunches with the largest fruit (some of the fruit was red, and some was still green), checking the aroma by breathing deep into their flower nests. The scent can vary, but they are heavily fragrant — oftentimes peppery with hints of coriander and carrot. This complexity is the essence of wild flavors.

To harvest, clip the cluster, remove the fruits from the frame, and dry them under gentle heat (such as a heat lamp or dehyrdrator); you can store them whole to use as a spice or seasoning at will. Once they dry, their strong aroma will dissipate, but give them a quick grind in the Cuisinart, blender, or mortar and pestle and — violà! — the pungent fragrance returns.

One of my favorite ways to use this spice is to sprinkle it on top of carrot cake for an added kick. It’s also wonderful in carrot salads, caramelized on top of crème brulée, or infused into jelly.

Important Note:

Historically, Queen Anne’s lace was used for medicinal and contraceptive purposes. Avoid it if you are pregnant, and check with your doctor if you are currently taking medications. More information about this wild herb can be found here: Encyclopedia of HerbologyWild Carrot

The carrot family contains a number of poisonous look-alikes, most notably poison hemlock. Once the fruit has formed, it is easy to tell them apart, but less so when the plants still only have leaves.

When foraging, always choose high-quality landscapes (not next to the highway or on post-industrial or sprayed sites), and make sure to obtain permission if it is not your own yard. If possible, go out with an experienced forager.

Found at: Food 52

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