Pineappleweed is a common herb found in disturbed areas, and growing in gravel alongside our roads. It is a form of wild chamomile. Pineappleweed can easily be gathered in the fall and hung in bunches to dry, to make an excellent, soothing herb tea. Here are more details and a recipe, from Shawn’s book, The Forager’s Dinner, about yet another under-appreciated wild plant.
What is it?
Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea), also known as wild chamomile, is a robust and widespread plant, frequently seen growing through cracks in pavement and sidewalks, along roadsides and paths, as well as in gardens and other disturbed areas. A low-growing (to 30 centimetres) relative of the aster family, pineappleweed resembles its close relative chamomile in appearance, but lacks the white petals. Flower heads are green to yellow and cone-shaped. Leaves are feathery and finely divided. To positively identify this plant, rub a flower bud and smell. If you detect the aroma of pineapple or chamomile tea, you are holding pineappleweed.
How to Harvest
Pick pineappleweed plants in the summer and fall by pulling the whole plant or trimming the flowering tops. Many people choose to harvest or eat only the yellow nubs of the flower heads which can be pulled off by hand or removed with clippers, but the leaves as well as the flowers are good for tea, once dried.
How to Use
Pineappleweed is an excellent choice for people allergic to pineapple, who miss that flavour. It is my favourite wild plant for tea or flavoured waters. Most mornings, before I go foraging, I pack my water bottle with pineapple weed, fill it with fresh water, and I am ready to go.
Pineapple weed can be used in dessert recipes, because it adds a sweet herbal flavour and can be used to make a tropical tasting ice cream.
You can use the fresh or dried flower heads and leaves to make tea by steeping them in hot water. You can also add the flower heads when fresh to salads, or boil them with sugar or honey to make a flavoured syrup, which can then also be used to make jelly, by the addition of more sugar and pectin. We sometimes dry the flowers and crush them with sea salt to make a fish spice.
TOASTED MILK PINEAPPLEWEED CREAM AND STRAWBERRIES
(Celeste Mah, pastry chef at Raymond’s Restaurant in St. John’s)
This is a super easy, super delicious summer dessert!
500 ml heavy cream
50 g skim milk powder
50 g sugar
A big handful of pineappleweed (leaves, flowers, stems)
Put the milk powder in a small saucepan and slowly toast it over low heat. Make sure you stir it once in a while as it warms so it does not stick or burn. When it starts to toast, stir continuously so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
Next, add the cream and sugar to the toasted powder and stir with a whisk until everything is combined. Add the pineapple weed then bring the mixture to the point where it is almost ready to boil.
Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let stand to infuse the cream with the flavour of the pineapple weed. When the mixture is quite cool, strain it through a fine mesh strainer and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
When you ready to use the cream mixture, whip it with a mixer and then whisk it until it has medium-stiff peaks. Serve with cut strawberry slices tossed with a pinch of sugar.