Watching my angelica open, I’m reminded how much I would love to be able to grow Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot), but somehow it will not take for me. I never see it in pots in nurseries and rarely even find seeds, unless I’m hiking, and that’s a little risky since those dried stalks could be hemlock, famous for killing Socrates and said to have been given to prisoners before crucifixion by the Romans in a small gesture of mercy.

Photo by Andrew Wille

All photos by Andrew Wille

My friend Andrew in England has, on his walks, the great good fortune of encountering acres of Queen Anne’s lace, aka Cow Parsley, but which his grandmother called Pig Parsley.

It is a beautiful plant — I’m sure cows and pigs thought so, too, and thought it delicious as well. It has many local names, such as badman-oatmeal, devil’s oatmeal, dog’s flourish and dead man’s flesh, because it thrived in grave yards. It was said that if you brought cow parsley indoors, snakes would follow and that a bouquet in the house would lead to the death of one’s mother (and thus it is sometimes called kill-your-mother-quick or stepmother’s blessing). The name Queen Anne’s lace not only refers to the flowers (it’s also been called Lady’s Lace), but to Queen Anne’s (1665-1714) tragic child losses.

PigParsleyCowParlseyQueenAnne'sLace-3 -- Andrew

If you’ve run out of carrots, but want the taste, add Queen Anne’s lace flowers and the root to the pot.

Externally, you can make a poultice salve or oil and apply to burns, scalds, skin lesions, abscesses and to relieve pain.

As a tea made from the seeds, Queen Anne’s lace has been used medicinally as a diuretic, to stimulate the uterus in helping to promote menstruation, as birth control (yet another of its names is the-morning-after herb), to stop the formation of kidney stones, to sooth hangovers, to aid in the treatment of diabetes and to support the liver (the list is long, so I’ll spare you).

PigParsleyCowParlseyQueenAnne'sLace -- Andrew

As for pigs, a recipe for feeding them, from Gloucestershire, England, includes “cow parsley, with new bracken tops, and blackberry tips as a change of diet from from kitchen scraps…” but never “feed this to a little pig or you would ‘stitch ‘un’,” that is, it would grow too quickly for its skin.