Hogweed (Heracleum Sphondylium)
How to Identify Hogweed
A mild case of photo-phyto-dermatitis can be caused by touching the raw juice of this plant and, leaving the exposed skin in the sun will cause the area to blister. Wear gloves if picking, if juice goes on you, keep that area of skin covered and out of direct sun light
Could be Confused With
Giant Hogweed, Giant hogweed is a lot larger than hog weed, the leaves are a lot more sharp and you can typically see the remnants of last years growth from the huge canes (6-10ft) that will be left over.
Range and Distribution
These plants grow all over Europe, except Iceland, North Africa and all over America and Asia.
Hogweed prefers nitrogen rich soils and grows well up to an altitude of 2500m, it can be found on roadsides, banks, hedgerows, boarders, disused and waste land.
Hog weed is a herbaceous perennial or biennial plant that can grow from 50-120cms in height. The main stem rises from a large reddish rhizomatous root, it is striated or ribbed, hollow and has bristly hairs all over.
The leaves can reach a length of 55cms in length, they are very pinnate, hairy and serrated, they are divided in to 3-5 lobed sections, the edges are typically round, unlike giant hogweed which are always extremely pointed. Hogweed has white to pinkish flowers, displaying in large umbels (umbrella looking) up to 25cms, each contain 15-30 individual flowers, these individual flowers contain 5 petals.
The seeds are winged and flattened contained in pods with rounded edges, up to 1cm long.
Root: edible, grated, lacto fermented, alcohol infusions
Stem: steamed, chopped in salads, battered, fried, on pizzas and omelettes
Leaves: soups, dried as seasoning
Fruit/seeds: as cardamom in cakes, cookies, shortbread, chutney, rice, curries, as celery salt, infused alcohol.
It’s referenced that the seeds have been used medicinally in the past, being heated in oil and applied to the skin for shingles; also a decoction of the seeds was to be used for aiding a running ear.
When all of the smaller leaves have grown, you often get new shoots appearing half way up previously growing shafts, they can be found either in or emerging from paper looking sheaths, these can be used exactly the same as the really young shoots.
Tips and Observations
Personally I never wear gloves when picking this plant, of course I don’t purposefully rub the juice on myself but I’ve never had an issue with the juice, if you plan to collect a lot of hogweed or a little, wearing gloves, maybe marigolds, would be a safe bet, but don’t worry yourself too much.
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