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Wales, United Kingdom
Documenting one couple's attempts to live a more self-sufficient life.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Rose bay willow herb: Third attempt

You'd think that having tasted something twice and not liked it, I'd have learnt to avoid it by now, wouldn't you? Well... when I mentioned on facebook that I didn't like rose bay willow herb, a friend assured me that if you wait until the stems are really big and fat, then peel them, the insides are delicious eaten raw.

I decided to give this plant one more chance and today, whilst out for a walk (I was looking for mushrooms, but didn't find any) I spotted some nice fat willow herb.

Fat rose bay willow herb

Like asparagus, fat stems grow on older plants; the thin stems do not fatten up. I'd have to leave them alone for another year or two to get this kind of plant in my garden, and I'm not going to do that! I tried the stem, peeling it as my friend advised, and avoiding the tough lower portion (almost half the stem) and the much smaller bitter part at the top. Actually, I'm not sure bitter is quite the right description; astringent seems more accurate, like sloes or unsweetened cranberries. I munched too near the top of one stem so I had plenty of opportunity to reflect on this, as the taste stayed with me for some time.

Eating the part I'd found palatable last time I tried it, I have to admit, it was really quite nice. I'm not sure I'd go quite as far as delicious, but not far off. My friend was right about eating it raw, too. Cooking would achieve nothing apart from making it harder to peel or, if already peeled, probably spoiling the texture.

I'm still not sure I'd make a point of gathering this plant for food, but if I find myself out for a walk and feeling hungry, as I was earlier today, I might well eat a few of these stems again, now I know how to get the best out of them.


  1. Definitely sounds like knowledge best filed under 'may come in handy one day'.

    Thanks for all your experimenting on our behalf!

  2. You are nothing if not persistent! :-)

  3. My next challenge is a plant that looks just like garlic mustard, but tastes of neither garlic nor mustard...


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