Thoughts, lessons, and theology from an eclectic witch from a varied background.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Daucus Carota (Bird's Nest, Carrot)

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
Daucus Carota1 is one of the most widely domesticated plants in the world. Most people are familiar with it by its most common name, Carrot. It is in the same family of plants as Queen Anne's Lace, as is evidenced by their similar flowers, leaves, and root structures. It is also known as Bird's Nest because when the flowers finish blooming, the umbel curls inward and resembles a cupped bird's nest.

Carrot is well known to the world since antiquity. It has been mentioned in the writings of the ancient Romans and Greeks under different names. This leads to some confusion for modern translators of these texts because in several cases, it is unclear if the Carrot is what was mentioned or if they were referring to Parsnip or Skirret. (Both Parsnip and Skirret are related to Carrots.) Specific breeding of Carrot varieties over the course of history has given rise to what is served commonly at the table.

The domestic Carrot is larger, sweeter, and less woody textured than wild Carrot. There are cultivars of domestic Carrot that are orange, yellow, purple, and white. Wild Carrot is predominantly found to have a white root, though the other color varieties do occur. The whole plant is suitable for consumption. The leafy tops are edible when they are young. As the plant ages, the upper portion of the Carrot becomes bitter and contain toxic alkaloids. The roots are used as a food staple around the world. The blossoms and the seeds have a folk medicine application as a contraceptive.

The medicinal applications of Bird's Nest have varied over the course of history. It has been used a laxative, vermifuge, and poultices to treat a wide range of disorders. It was especially known as a good treatment for liver disorders. This plant has strong antiseptic properties and discourage putrescent changes in the body when consumed.

When it was introduced to England, it was received with great enthusiasm due to the difficulties in that region with growing produce, as compared to continental Europe. Interestingly, however, its uses moved beyond that as a food stuff or medicinal product. During the reign of James I, it enjoyed a period as a fashionable accessory in the elaborate hairstyles of the era. In these instances, the top of the plant with its delicate leaves was used.

In folk magic, Bird's Nest is often used to impart infertility but it also, paradoxically, can be used to assist fertility magic as well. Due to its resemblance to an erect penis, it has been considered a male aphrodisiac. Some have also used forked Carrot roots in place of Mandrake as poppets for their magical workings. They also have acquired a reputation as something that encourages healthy eyesight. Part of this reputation is based upon the presence of lutein and partly upon the sympathetic magical association with the eye based upon a cross section of the taproot.

1. I've been informed that the Daucus Carota is not the same as domesticated Carrot. The name of that plant is Daucus Carota (Sativus). It is a unique subspecies of Daucus Carota. Do not consume the upper portions of Daucus Carota because it is toxic. The young roots of Daucus Carota are edible but become woody and unpalatable as they age. Thank you to M. Robinson for pointing this out.

My sources are M. Grieve's A Modern Herbal (Volume I for today's posting) and what I have found at sites such as Wikipedia and fact pages about plants hosted by educational sites such as Cornell Univ.

I apologize for my error in today's post.

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