Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

hogweed Heracleum sphondylium, a biennial/perennial herb of Europe, Asia, and N. America, also called cow parsnip.

Mrs Phoebe Lankester, ‘the English student of plant-lore’, is cited by Fernald and Kinsey (1943) as having observed that pigs were fattened on hogweed, as the name suggests, and having further stated:

In Siberia and Russia the stalks are dried in the sun, when a sweet substance exudes from them, which resembles sugar, and is eaten as a great delicacy. A spirit is distilled from the stalks thus prepared, by first fermenting them with water and either mingling bilberries with them or not…. The young shoots and leaves may be boiled and eaten as a green vegetable, and when just sprouting from the ground resemble asparagus in flavour. The experiment is, however, seldom tried, owing to the ignorance of those to whom such an addition to the table would be a benefit and luxury.