Show 178: Ramps, Redbud, Forsythia and Cow Parsnip


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,690 admin

    I wish we had wild ramps here. We have wild onions but they have very little on them for greens.

    Redbud certainly is a beautiful plant. I’ve never seen one that I can remember although, I’m sure that I have seen them at some of the botanical gardens I have been to in the Vancouver area. I see that it grows to zone 4 so maybe if I found one at a garden centre I would try to bring it home. Although, it may be too dry for it to survive here. I will have to do more research into the growing conditions.

    I have never used cow parsnip for much of anything even though it is very common here. You mention its use as a sour soup in Polish culture. I understand that in parts of Europe, cow parsnip was one of the original vegetables used in making borscht.

    I have eaten cow parsnip but only after being shown by a First Nations elder. Cow parsnip can cause issues with numbness in the mouth and throat if eaten later in the season than it should be. Eat before the flower bud fully forms. At least in its raw state. I'm not sure if cooking removes or alters that component. As far as I know the indigenous uses here were to eat it as a raw or cooked vegetable in the spring. It wasn't preserved or saved in any way for later use.

    There is another very similar plant that deserves mention here just because of its toxicity. Heracleum sphondylium. Its common name here is giant hogweed and wow, it is nasty. It grows much larger (taller) than cow parsnip; it can get to 20 feet. Larger flower heads, larger leaves and thicker stems with large purple splotches. The sap can cause photosensitive, 3rd-degree burns that can remain photosensitive for up to 10 years following exposure. Its not native here in BC and is only found in isolated occurrences on the south coast and the islands, but it is so toxic that when a plant is found, a special Invasive Species team goes out in hazmat gear to remove it. In Oregon, it is law to report all sightings. In Washington it is up to the landowner (public or private) to control the plant. These plants produce thousands of seeds, so they can spread very quickly. They are native to Asia and apparently was brought in as an exotic landscape plant. Were they insane??????

    So another very toxic member of the Apiaceae family.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,498 admin

    Wow, I am glad we don't have giant hogweed here... not that I've seen anyway! For me, cow parsnip is a spring plant, so I haven't experienced the later season effects. Thanks for the tip.