Wild carrot, Daucus carota, is growing in direct sunlight all over the roadsides of Portland right now. I gathered a bunch of blossoms yesterday and tore them up and put them in a glass jar, filled it halfway with water and topped the rest with Everclear (190 proof vodka) to make a folk tincture. It’ll now cure in a dark closet for up to six weeks before it is ready for use as a plant medicine.
Historically in North America, the Mohegan, Delaware and Oklahoma people boiled wild carrot blossom tea to treat diabetes. But my interest in this tincture is more metaphysical. After all, there are medicines for healing the body’s wounds and then there are medicines for the soul — and for me, this is the latter.
At the Urban Foraging 101 class I led with Emily Porter last Sunday, our group meditated with a mystery tincture in the park. It was Emily’s turn to bring one she made. As I sat quietly with it, I felt energized with seemingly boundless amounts of creative ideas. Later, I learned that Emily had made the tincture of wild carrot blossoms, and I wasn’t surprised: They grow straight up to the sun with flowers wide open, a posture that can be interpreted as jubilant and receptive.
Also known as Queen Anne’s Lace, wild carrot is an edible root just like its conventional cohort; it is most tasty if dug up in the late fall or early spring. If you harvest it other times, you’ll find it to be tough and woody. It’s not necessarily worth harvesting, though, because it tends to be very small in the urban wilds — only about as thick or as tall as a pinky finger. The young stalks are also edible, best eaten in late spring or early summer.
Some people worry that wild carrot looks very similar to poison hemlock, but you can be sure you are correctly identifying the safe plant by touching the hairy stalks and feeling the fuzzy texture. Hemlock, by contrast, is smooth. For further reassurance, make sure you see a dark purple or black spot in the center of the blossom — only carrot has it.