Shepard’s Needle – Peigne de Vénus/Aiguilette
When we came across this plant, our first thought was ‘young fennel’, till we looked again and realised that although the leaves are 2-3 pinnate, they differ from fennel, they look more like carrot leaves, in shape and in colour. The taste is rather nice. I thought it tasted a bit like carrot, the others thought it resembled parsley.
It is a short (10-12cm), hairless annual. The leaves are 2-3 pinnate, with linear lobes, toothed. The white flowers are in the shape of umbles with 1-3 rays, most often 2 rays. Each ray has five flowers, in different sizes, 2 small, 2 medium and 1 large. The fruits are erect, in the shape of a beak, between 4-6cm long, hence the name Shepard’s Needle. The ‘needles’ end in 2 tiny horns, like a V shape. The pistil is inside these horns. The plant grows along cultivated, fallow, waste land and roadsides.
The leaves are harvested when young. They can be added to salads, used instead of parsley to accompany dishes, cooked as a vegetable or added to soup.
Bibliography: Mediterranean Wild Flowers – Marjorie Blamey and Christopher Grey-Wilson; Sauvages et comestibles – Marie-Claude Paume