Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot)

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

Wild Carrot is a flowering plant native to Europe and southwest Asia. It is naturalized throughout much of the United States and Canada and can be found growing wild in fields and along roadsides. The root of D. carota is edible, and can be cooked and used in a similar way as cultivated carrots. The dried roasted roots can be ground into a powder and used as a coffee substitute.

Only the first year root should be used. Since wild carrot is a biennial, and flowers in its second year, the root of a carrot in flower is too woody to be used. At this point you can peel the stem and eat it both raw and cooked. The flower (like many things, I suppose) is said to be tasty deep fried.

Queen Anne’s lace umbels and a developing seed-head

The leaves are edible as both a raw (when young) and cooked green. The aromatic seeds can be used as flavoring in stews, carrying “hints of citrus, cumin, coriander, and caraway.” When I tasted the seed I found it to be reminiscent of pine, slightly sweet, and a little bitter.

What really sets this plant apart is its history of use as a contraceptive. Women have been using the seeds for such a purpose for centuries. Research in this area has shown promise. Interestingly, a plant in the same family, silphium, was so prized as a contraceptive that the demand led to its extinction in the 3rd or 2nd century BC.

Seeds of Queen Anne's lace
Seeds of Queen Anne’s lace

Wild carrot has many medicinal properties. The seeds are said to be a diuretic (1). They support the kidneys and help prevent kidney stones. They are also carminative (2), soothing the digestive tract in case of gas, diarrhea, or indigestion. The seeds can also be used to stimulate the appetite, and alleviate menstrual cramps. An infusion of the seeds can be made using one teaspoon of the seeds per cup of boiling water. Note: Because of its contraceptive properties, wild carrot seed should not be used during pregnancy.

queen annes lace 4

The leaves of wild carrot contain porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary and induce sex hormone production. It also stimulates the uterus. This, of course, makes it contraindicated during pregnancy, but perhaps useful for the purpose of inducing labor. You can make a tea from both fresh and dried leaves. It has similar medicinal properties as the seed infusion.

Cultivated carrots are a subspecies of Daucus carota (wild carrot). Carrots have many health benefits but I will list only a few of them here. Chewing a carrot after a meal is good for your mouth. It contains minerals, stimulates your gums, and cleans your teeth, helping to prevent tooth decay. There is a direct correlation between eating more carrots and lowering your risk of heart disease, and a study from Harvard University concluded that eating more than five carrots a week greatly reduces the risk of stroke in the elderly. [1]

Unfortunately, wild carrot has a few poisonous look-alikes, including poison hemlock, water hemlock, and fool’s parsley. Fortunately, there are differences between them, and it is easy to tell the difference if you know what to look for.

The most telling difference is the existence of a red or purple flower in the center of the wild carrot umbel. If you see it, you can be sure the plant in question is wild carrot.

photo courtesy of Susan Minarik at highonhappiness.com
photo courtesy of Susan Minarik at highonhappiness.com

Not all wild carrot umbels have a dark flower, which brings us to the second difference. Wild carrot stems are hairy, while the stems of both hemlock’s and fool’s parsley are smooth and hairless. This difference is important because it can be noticed in even the first year plants, which otherwise look very similar. Wild carrot also smells like a carrot.

First year plants. Note the hairs on the wild carrot leaves
Left: Queen Anne’s lace, Right: Poison Hemlock. Note the hairs on the plant on the left. (Click to enlarge)
Daucus carota
Daucus carota

Click here for more comparison photos:
Poison Hemlock, Water Hemlock, and Fool’s Parsley

More identification pictures for Queen Anne’s Lace:

(1) Diuretic: any substance that promotes the production of urine.

(2) Carminative: a substance that eases griping pains and reduces the production of gas in the digestive tract.

cited sources:
1. Full Circle 2. http://www.highonhappiness.com/

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