Young shoots - cooked. Used like asparagus. Young leaves are eaten in salads. The leaves and seedpods are cooked as a vegetable. They are used as a flavouring. Only fresh leaves should be used, see the notes above on toxicity. The crushed dried leaves can be used as a vanilla flavouring in puddings, pastries etc. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.Flowers - raw or cooked. The flowers and seeds are used as a flavouring. The flowers also give an aromatic quality to some tisanes.
Poorly dried or fermented leaves produce a substance called dicoumarol. This is a potent anti-coagulant which is extremely poisonous in excess, it prevents the blood from coagulating and so it is possible to bleed to death from very small wounds. Dicoumarol is used in rat poisons.The plant can be used as a green manure, enriching the soil with nitrogen as well a providing organic matter.
The flowering plant is antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emollient, mildly expectorant, mildly sedative and vulnerary. An infusion is used in the treatment of sleeplessness, nervous tension, neuralgia, palpitations, varicose veins, painful congestive menstruation, in the prevention of thrombosis, flatulence and intestinal disorders. Externally, it is used to treat eye inflammations, rheumatic pains, swollen joints, severe bruising, boils and erysipelas, whilst a decoction is added to the bath-water. The flowering plant is harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use.A distilled water obtained from the flowering tops is an effective treatment for conjunctivitis.
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The flowers are rich in pollen making this a good bee plant. If they are cut back before flowering, the plants will grow on for at least another year before dying. The dried plant has a sweet aromatic fragrance like newly mown hay.This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
Problems, pests & diseases
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