Lesser Celandine: A European Edible

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The shiny yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria, first caught my eye a few weeks ago. I noticed it had 8 to 10 petals and smooth, heart-shaped leaves that reminded me of violets. It’s all over the lawns here in Portland, usually in shady spots, often dominating gardens. I hit the botany books and found out it’s a member of the buttercup family from Europe, and it is edible. You’ll find it throughout the Pacific Northwest and in the northeastern states right now.

Fergus

The leaves of Lesser Celandine contain a mild toxin that can be destroyed with heat, so you can eat them after boiling. But foragers in the know say the tubers (underground parts) are the real prize. Root harvesting season for this plant is before the flowers bloom and then again after the flowers die in early June.

As Lesser Celandine is a European plant, I e-mailed UK expert Fergus the Forager to ask how he eats it, and he recommended boiling, roasting or hot pickling the roots. I’m excited to try it. Because the leaves resemble other plants, you can identify this plant now and come back to harvest in about six weeks.

Lesser Celandine is also known as Fig Buttercup and Pilewort. It resembles its relative the Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris, a yellow flower with five broad petals that grows in bogs. (It, too, needs to be heated before eating to destroy toxins).

Share this post with your friends and give them a head’s up on an early summer food.

14 thoughts on “Lesser Celandine: A European Edible

  1. I have small horses and they have lots left in th ground as it is poisonous to them . Any other animals that could eat them and coexist with horses

  2. Pingback: Creeping Charlie is Edible | Typing Animal

  3. hi i at the young leafs. keep your taste buds clean and pure and your nose sensitive and your senses awake. then go for your sntinc and try it if you like. its good to start with a very littly . i ate some young plants

    Stephen Barstow from norway posted something on scharbockskraut. here in germany its also populr growing. uk is an island nd a bit different than the rest of th world.

  4. Hey Becky!

    Today we just went for a semi-wild picnic in the forest here in western Romania, we picked ramsons and made it into a lovely salad, with some fresh cottage cheese. There were loads of lesser celandines around. Last week I picked some and ate them raw right on the spot, they were still tiny. Just a slight bitter aftertaste, i bet if you eat them in a salad you don’t feel it. They were not in bloom last week and only a few were in bloom now, so i picked some today, some with their tiny tubers (some were the size of a wheat grain, and some were a little bigger. I don’t know if that’s how small they’re supposed to be, or maybe I should have dug more?

    I’ll do a stew or soup tomorrow, with the ramsons and the little celandine leafs and tubers.

    Thank you for the blog, for sharing the knowledge!

  5. Rebecca,
    Last fall a friend was altering her organic garden and offered me a yard of soil and bulbs. I put the big pile of soil on a tarp for the winter until I figured out what to do with it.

    There must be a few hundred lesser celandines in that gorgeous soil. Rather than putting all these bulbs into my garden, I would happily joyfully let someone come and take the soil with all the LC bulbs in it and give them a good home. I’m a half hour north of PDX, nice ride in the country. Anyone want it? Contact me offline through my farm website.
    http://www.friendlyhaven.com

    warmly,
    Jacqueline

  6. I can’t believe the timing, the petals fell off of the two remaining flowers today. I think I’ll just wait till next year anyway, I have been identifying a lot of new plants this year, and I’m trying to learn to take it slow and learn each plant more thoroughly.

    Thanks for the info on this and the other plants that you cover.

  7. Wow I have been seeing this around and I thought it was Marsh Marigold. Is it a similar plant? I wonder if marsh marigold even grows here. I am really excited that the plants I’ve been seeing may be lesser celandine! Thanks for posting!

  8. I’ll have to get a firm identification, but I’m pretty sure that we have some growing in the flower bed right at the top of our back steps. I have been eying it up since it flowered last year, because it does look somewhat like marsh marigold.

  9. Hello Becky,

    i have eat it raw in early season. One month ago or more it was here in germany all over around. Then the yellow flower come which somehow vanished nearly.

    Foraging tubers. one german forager recomand only forage with wood and Horn never use metal and iron. Avoid iron to not disturb the spirits. I heard that sometimes.

    I think i have a raw food book here where it is in. One local herbalist told me on it. it was eaten in times of scorbut. its rich in vitamin c.

  10. Steve,

    Thanks for your comment, and for letting us know of some other ways to enjoy it.

    RE the raw thing — Fergus said he knows some in the UK who eat it raw with no trouble and others who say eating it raw makes them sick. I would go give it a shot and see what happens, but last time I did that I got an upset stomach (from cat’s ear).

  11. Hi Becky,

    A foraging friend in England tells me it’s edible raw when young, but it usually has an awfully bitter aftertaste in America when eaten raw, whereas this doesn’t seem to be the case in England. I parboil it 2 minutes before adding it to soups, stews and curries. It has a pleasant, if unexciting, mild flavor, and adds some texture to such dishes.

    Happy Foraging!

    “Wildman” Steve Brill

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