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Yarrow is a hearty plant that typically grows to one meter tall. Each stem has multiple flat flower heads that are comprised of many tiny daisy-shaped blossoms. Flowers range in color from white, yellow, pink, deep magenta, red and bi-colored. Its fern-like foliage is soft and feathery when young but can become quite sharp and prickly with maturity. Both the leaves and flowers have a spicy herbal aroma that is reminiscent of crushed rosemary and oregano. These same flavors are also exhibited on the palate, starting off sweet and honeyed and then finishing with a clean bitter note.
Yarrow flowers are available spring through summer.
Yarrow is a perennial herb that is often regarded as an invasive weed, but actually has a rich history in alternative medicine. As a known blood clotting agent, Yarrow gets it botanical name, Achillea millefolium, from the Trojan War hero Achilles. He was said to carry it with him onto the battlefield for treating his wounded soldiers. Other common names include milfoil, thousandleaf, soldier's woundwort, bloodwort, nose bleed, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, old-man’s-pepper and stenchgrass. While Yarrow is entirely edible, excessive use may increase sensitivity to sunlight.
Referred to as a "green pharmacy", there are over 120 compounds in Yarrow, among them are flavanoids, volatile oils, salicylic acid, tannins, antiseptic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory agents.
Yarrow's bitter quality is similar to that of hops and may be used for flavoring beer. When young, the leaves and blossoms may be eaten raw, but should be used sparingly due their bitter finish. They may be steeped as an herbal tea or used to infuse a flavored oil. The sweetness of the blossoms adds a honey tone to ice creams and gelatos. When fresh, Yarrow compliments other soft leafy herbs such as tarragon, chervil, parsley and chive. When it is dried the flavor becomes intense and earthy, making a better accompaniment to sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano.
The entire Yarrow plant was vital to early Native American medicine. Flowers were used specifically in the treatment of headaches, fever, swelling, chest pains, clotting open wounds, skin conditions, heavy menstruation and general pain management. In China the Yarrow stalks represent the perfect universal balance of Yin and Yang.
The origins of Yarrow have been traced back 100,000 years to the Shanidar Caves of Iraq. The plant has since been naturalized in countries around the world and today is abundant in the eastern and central parts of the United States and Canada. Yarrow is commonly found growing along roadsides in ditches, pastures, meadows and other disturbed areas. It thrives in lean well-drained sandy or gravelly soils in full sun. It is both frost and drought resistant.
Recipes that include Yarrow Flowers. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Forager Chef||Penne Aglio Olio with Yarrow|
|Edible Wild Food||Yarrow Omelette|
|Forager Chef||Goat Milk Sorbet With Currants, Yarrow And Black Walnuts|
People have spotted Yarrow Flowers using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.