Young shoots in spring - raw or cooked. An asparagus substitute. They taste like cucumber. The shoots can still be used when they are up to 50cm long. Base of mature stem - raw or cooked. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem. It is called 'Cossack asparagus'. Immature flowering spike - raw, cooked or made into a soup. It tastes like sweet corn. Seed - raw or cooked. The seed is rather small and fiddly to utilize, but has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted. The seed can be ground into a flour and used in making cakes etc. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Due to the small size of the seed this is probably not a very worthwhile crop[K].Pollen - raw or cooked. The pollen can be used as a protein rich additive to flour when making bread, porridge etc. It can also be eaten with the young flowers, which makes it considerably easier to utilize. The pollen can be harvested by placing the flowering stem over a wide but shallow container and then gently tapping the stem and brushing the pollen off with a fine brush. This will help to pollinate the plant and thereby ensure that both pollen and seeds can be harvested[K].
The stems can be used to make rush lights. The outer stem is removed except for a small strip about 10mm wide which acts as a spine to keep the stem erect. The stem is then soaked in oil and can be lit and used like a candle. The female flowers make an excellent tinder and can be lit from the spark of a flint. A fibre is obtained from the blossom stem and flowers. A fibre obtained from the leaves can be used for making paper The leaves are harvested in summer, autumn or winter and are soaked in water for 24 hours prior to cooking. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with soda ash and then beaten in a ball mill for 1½ hours. They make a green or brown paper. The hairs of the fruits are used for stuffing pillows etc. They have good insulating and buoyancy properties and have also been used as a wound dressing and a lining for babies nappies. The flowering stems can be dried and used for insulation, they also have good buoyancy properties.The pollen is highly inflammable, it is used in making fireworks etc.
The pollen is astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, haemostatic, refrigerant, sedative, suppurative and vulnerary. The dried pollen is said to be anticoagulant, but when roasted with charcoal it becomes haemostatic. It is used internally in the treatment of kidney stones, haemorrhage, painful menstruation, abnormal uterine bleeding, post-partum pains, abscesses and cancer of the lymphatic system. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women. Externally, it is used in the treatment of tapeworms, diarrhoea and injuries. A decoction of the stems has been used in the treatment of whooping cough. The roots are diuretic, galactogogue, refrigerant and tonic. The roots are pounded into a jelly-like consistency and applied as a poultice to wounds, cuts, boils, sores, carbuncles, inflammations, burns and scalds. The flowers are used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments including abdominal pain, amenorrhoea, cystitis, dysuria, metrorrhagia and vaginitis. The young flower heads are eaten as a treatment for diarrhoea.The seed down has been used as a dressing on burns and scalds.
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A very invasive plant spreading freely at the roots when in a suitable site, it is not suitable for growing in small areas. Unless restrained by some means, such as a large bottomless container, the plant will soon completely take over a site and will grow into the pond, gradually filling it in. This species will often form an almost complete monoculture in boggy soil.Provides excellent cover for wild fowl.
Problems, pests & diseases
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