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Yarrow has small, antler-shaped leaves growing along its thin, light green stems creating a feathery appearance. Yarrow is a soft herb, like tarragon. The herb has a strong licorice-like aroma with a sweet flavor and a somewhat bitter and astringent finish. The strong aroma remains even when Yarrow is dried. The plant blooms in the late summer with small white flowers, reminiscent of tiny, flattened daisies. The entire plant is edible, and it is said the leaves are best harvested when the plant is in bloom.
Yarrow is available in the summer months.
Yarrow is a perennial herb botanically known as Achillea millefolium. It is related to chrysanthemums and chamomile. Yarrow is known by many common names, including Soldier's Woundwort, Devil's nettle, Bloodwort, Knight's Milfoil, and Herbe Militaris. All of the herb’s common names refer to its use as a tool on the ancient battlefield, staunching the blood of the wounded. Yarrow has a long history of medicinal and culinary use.
Yarrow contains flavonoids that aid in digestion by increasing saliva and acids in the stomach. The herb is used as an astringent and as an anti-inflammatory in the treatment of arthritis. Over consumption of Yarrow may cause skin irritation.
Yarrow is a strong flavoring herb and should be used sparingly. Young Yarrow leaves are preferred for fresh culinary applications. In Sweden, Yarrow is often used to flavor beer, as a substitute for hops. The herb can be made into tea or used fresh in salads. The tender nature of the herb will not stand up to the heat of cooking, and boiling Yarrow for long periods may bring out the bitterness. For flavoring pasta or risotto with Yarrow or to subdue the flavor, mix with other soft herbs like tarragon, chervil or parsley, and toss into the dish once it has been removed from the heat. Yarrow can be used in meat and vegetable marinades. Pair Yarrow with another herb, like parsley, and blend with a neutral-flavored oil to create an aromatic oil to use in vinaigrettes. Yarrow does not keep well and should be used within a few days if refrigerated. Store sprigs of Yarrow in a glass of water for continued use.
Yarrow has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The Greeks employed the herb as a fever-reducer and to inspire perspiration. An essential oil is made from Yarrow flowers that is used to flavor sodas. Today, Yarrow is an essential ingredient in a commercial product used to jump start bacteria growth and decomposition in compost.
Yarrow is native to Europe, and was brought to the United States by colonists where it became naturalized, and most assume it is native. Yarrow is rhizomatous, meaning it propagates via root stem. It grows well in a warm and sunny climate and is most often found in meadows and sandy soils. It is hardy to USDA Zone 8. The herb has been used for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Greece. Soldiers would apply poultices of Yarrow on wounds and sores to staunch the bleeding. Yarrow earned its scientific name due to stories of the young Greek warrior, Achilles using the herb to help stop the bleeding of his wounded men. ‘Achillea’ for the warrior and ‘millefolium’ meaning “thousand leaved.”