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Hogweed

Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer

One of our favourite wild foods with three edible crops but because of the phototoxicity of Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, people can be wary of this plant.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Hogweed, Cow Parsnip
Scientific Name Heracleum sphondylium
Season Start Mar
Season End Nov
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

Starting tightly curled and pale green opening out into large dark green roughly lobed, matt leaves covered in tiny hairs.

Flowers

A sheathed bud at the base of a leaf opens out into a large white umbel made up of many tiny flowers. (Umbel being shaped like an umbrella).

Flower Buds

These are the unopened flowers at their best broccoli like stage.

Seeds

Small flat green discs with red markings growing in clusters on the umbels. The seeds are still edible when mature and brown.

Stem

Green to dark red/brown/purple. Fleshy, thick, hollow and covered in small hairs.

Roots

Sometimes thick and a bit parsnip like but more often thin, small and very branched.

Habitat

Wood edges, beside paths, roadside verges and many other environments.

Possible Confusion

Giant Hogweed! This is a very dangerous plant with phototoxic sap which will burn your skin extremely badly if exposed to the Sun. This is no idle warning, if you want to see how bad the burns can get a simple google search should do the trick.

Giant hogweed, pictured, has slightly shinier leaves, more hair in a ring around the stem where the leaf joints are, and more flower stems, and is much larger when mature. Giant hogweed gets to 4 to 5 metres tall, common hogweed is normally around 2 metres or less.

 

 

Taste

Cooked like spinach hogweed has a flavour of its own. One of the best tasting of the wild foods available in the UK.
The shoots are best blanched and cooked in butter, the leaves can be used when very young or as a flavouring for soups and stews, the flower buds can be used  like broccoli, the seeds are a direct replacement for cardamom and the roots can be used like parsnips but must be boiled well.

Frequency

Very common.

Collecting

Only the young leaves should be eaten before they open out fully. Gloves should be worn as a few people can find they get an allergic skin reaction when in regular contact with the sap rather like Giant Hogweed but nowhere near as severe.

Medicinal Uses

Hogweed oil was used as a sedative and expectorant.

COMMENTS

9 comments for Hogweed

  1. Robert narramore says:

    Hi think I have found some hog weed and wood sorely can I send a pic to double check

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      please do by email to [email protected]

  2. Hadass says:

    I suspect there’s a ton growing around us, but I know for a fact that there is also giant hogweed around. A bit afraid to just chop and it.

  3. Sarah Mills says:

    I have cow parsnip popped up my garden growing vigorously but just one plant. How can I get rid of it, I completely re landscaped the garden two years ago after building an extension and don’t know where this came from. I think I pulled it up earlier last year not recognising it as something I planted but don’t know how to get rid now, especially as I am allergy prone. Advice gratefully received.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I am allergic to touching hogweed but not eating it luckily so I just wear a pair of rubber gloves when harvesting. If you pull up the plant with as much root as possible you should be rid of it but do this before it goes to seed.

  4. runcyclexcski says:

    would be nice to have more specific tips on how to tell sosnowski from common hogweed. Sure, there is no doubt when the evil type is 4 meters tall, but while young I wouldn’t tell them apart.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The best way to tell the two apart is the upper surface of the leaves. Giant hogweed has a smooth, shiny surface with no hairs, common hogweed has a matt surface covered in a suede like covering of small hairs.

  5. Jim Edwards says:

    Hi there, I enjoyed your article on hogweed. I’ve got a big garden in Carmarthenshire with tons of it but I’m pretty sure I have both common and giant. Your article throws up a couple of questions for me as I’d really like to try eating some.

    I took a quick look just before dark tonight, so will need to go back in good light.

    If you approach giant hogweed with real caution would eating that also be possible, or is that a complete no-no. I’m thinking the seeds might be OK and possibly the florets but I specifically would like to try the young stems that you’ve likened to Asparagus. Trouble is some of the characteristics are the same so I’m not yet 100% sure I’ll take the plung!

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I wouldn’t try to eat Giant Hogweed just because of the risks, I’m not sure if it would affect the mouth but if it did it could take up to seven years to heal. The best way to tell the difference at this time of year (July) is that giant hogweed would have a stem up to the diameter of a wine bottle and be up to 4+ meters tall with florets larger than dinner plates. Also the upper surface of the leaves of Giant Hogweed are shiny and hairless, the upper surface of the leaves of Common Hogweed have a matt texture as they have a suede like covering of small hairs.

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