August Foraging: Common Hogweed

Make your own spicy blend this month

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Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
2 August 2022

This month’s foraging guide looks at Common Hogweed, where to find it and how to introduce it to your kitchen. It’s worth noting that Common Hogweed belongs to the Apiaceae family which also contains celery.

Foraging best practice

Celery is the number one food allergy in Europe so if you have an allergy or intolerance to celery it may be worth staying clear of Common Hogweed too. However, foraging best practice is to always try a little of any new food first to check if you have any allergy before indulging in large quantities.

You can eat the young shoots, seeds, mature leaves and roots of Common Hogweed, although the roots are very woody so not considered a prize forgeable.

Searching for seeds

Common Hogweed is very common and found all over the headlands, woodland and road sides from March – September. In late July, August and September you will begin to see the flower heads go to seed and it’s the seeds that are of particular interest to us in this month’s foraging blog.

The seed can be pickled when green but when dried possess the flavour of cardamon and bitter orange. Those who are familiar with Iranian cuisine will instantly recognise the taste as very similar to ‘Golpar’ which is a close relation to hogweed and is often used in Middle Eastern cookery.

Use in cooking

In Iran, it’s mostly used in savoury dishes often ground over broad beans, lentils, other legumes and potatoes. In British cuisine Common Hogweed seeds pair better with sweeter flavours and when toasted give off bitter-floral aromatics such as orange peel and ginger. They make a great parkin.

There is a fabulous recipe here http://www.katherskitchen.co.uk/2012/11/hogweed-parkin/. You can also add into the spice blend for a traditional carrot cake once ground down.

A note on Giant Hogweed

Common Hogweed is in the same family as Giant Hogweed, which has been in the press a lot in recent years as its growth has swept across the UK and it has been labeled as the ‘most dangerous plant’. The plant contains a toxic chemical called furancoumarin in its sap, which can be transfered by simply brushing past it, sensitising the skin to sunlight and possibly causing severe phytotoxic burns and blisters.

The burns can be pretty serious, often requiring medical treatment. Its worth learning how to identify this plant and teaching any children in your life about it too. It’s also worth noting that the chemical affects animals in the same way. If you do come into contact with giant hogweed you will need to wash the area throughly with cool water and plenty of soap, and then stay out of sunlight for 48 hours to be on the safe side.