Learning how to forage for wild edibles can ensure you always have an opportunity to grab a bite no matter what the situation is.
Whether you want to supplement your own pantry with truly organic food or you desperately need something to eat in the middle of the wilderness, knowing what plants to pick can save the day.
And while nature’s pantry offers us many delectable and healthy choices, not all common plants are.
Some are quite toxic! How about yarrow? Is yarrow edible?
Yes, yarrow is edible and all parts of the plant are safe although the young leaves and buds are the most palatable and tender. Excess consumption or consumption by sensitive individuals has been linked to problems, however.
Yarrow (Achillea millefollium) is well regarded among foragers for its excellent nutritional profile and versatility in various dishes.
Harvesting it at the right time can also lend interesting flavors to your favorite salad or other foods, ranging from bitter to an almost anise-like licorice flavor.
There’s lots more to learn if you want to make yarrow a regular inclusion on your menu, so keep reading.
What Parts of the Yarrow Plant are Edible?
All parts of the yarrow plant or safe to eat, although it is the young leaves and buds that tend to be the most popular.
In a pinch, though, you can eat the entire plant safely.
Is Yarrow Nutritious?
Yes, it is. Yarrow is surprisingly nutritious, and contains a good assortment of vitamins and minerals along with carbohydrates and some protein.
A good serving will furnish you with iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, plenty of vitamin A, and vitamin C along with various antioxidants.
This makes it a great main course if you’re looking for a leafy vegetable, and it is extremely popular as an add-in for salads because of its flavor and good nutritional profile.
Is Yarrow Safe to Eat Fresh?
Yes, yarrow is completely safe to eat fresh. All parts of the plant are safe when raw.
Is Yarrow Safe to Eat When Dried?
Yes, yarrow is likewise safe to eat when dry. In fact, many people prefer to dry it and use it this way as a kitchen herb later on after harvesting.
What’s the Best Way to Cook Yarrow?
The best way to eat yarrow is raw if you want maximum benefits, although the flavor might be too much for some.
Alternately, it can be used in cold preparations like salad dressings or dips, or cooked in all sorts of other dishes and recipes.
However, yarrow is a surprisingly delicate plant, and you should know that intense heat or prolonged cooking time is going to seriously degrade both the nutritional content and the flavor.
Obviously, you never want to lose out on the nutrients, but if you’re dealing with an older, tougher plant which is likely to have a highly pungent flavor, cooking it a little bit longer might make it easier to stomach for you.
What Does Yarrow Taste Like?
Yarrow has a somewhat variable taste, and it can be bitter, peppery, faintly sweet and aromatic, or even very much like anise or tarragon with a licorice-like flavor at turns.
This is broadly dependent on the overall health of the plant and where it is growing, but its maturity and age are the best indicators of flavor: younger plants are tenderer and less aromatic compared to older ones which can be very tough and intensely flavored!
You won’t really be able to tell how old a plant is outside of contextual clues, but you’ll always be able to spot a young and developing yarrow plant if you know what to look for.
For easier eating, go for these younger plants…
What’s the Best Way to Prepare Yarrow?
Your best bet for eating yarrow is raw, fresh, young leaves and buds in a salad.
They go great with most dressings that you care to add, or you can also use them as a garnish on soups and stews.
If you’re going to make a big pot full of steamed greens, yarrow is also make a good addition but do keep in mind that they will significantly impact the flavor of other greens.
Caution: Excess Consumption Can Cause Issues
Yarrow is safe and healthy, but like many good things, you shouldn’t overdo it. Be careful of allergic reactions with any plant and especially wild plants that aren’t domesticated.
Yarrow has been known to cause rashes or photosensitivity in people.
And no, I’m not talking about selfies: ingestion of yarrow has been known to make some people get headaches when exposed to bright light, so if you aren’t sure, go slowly and use the standard field edibility test when trying it for the first time.
Something else to consider, and potentially a far graver concern, is that yarrow is known to affect the menstrual cycle of women, either causing it to start early or intensify.
It also has a historical precedent of causing problems during pregnancy, so women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should never, ever consume or even handle yarrow!
Warning: Yarrow Has Deadly Lookalikes!
Lastly, you need to be double-sure whenever you are looking for or harvesting wild yarrow to eat.
It has several dangerous look-alikes, and although most of them are easy to tell apart if you have some legitimate knowledge of plants, if you’re going by the appearance of the flowers alone you might be setting yourself up for disaster and potentially death.
Yarrow is known for its small clusters of bright, typically white flowers that grow in a sort of flat top arrangement.
You know what other sorts of plans grow clusters of tiny white flowers and flat top arrangements? Poison hemlock and water hemlock!
These infamous perennials are two of the deadliest plants in North America, and some of the deadliest to be found around the world generally.
Ingesting any part of either of these plants, from the blooms and seeds down to the stems and roots, will make you extremely sick and can easily kill you.
Remember that hemlock has historically been used to produce poisons specifically for assassins and executions, so that should tell you how heinous this stuff is!
You can spot poison hemlock and water hemlock because they tend to be much larger than even the largest yarrow plant when they are mature, and the stems of both tend to be covered with reddish-purple splotches or streaks.
As always, if you’re in doubt don’t touch it, and definitely don’t eat it!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.