Foraging: Pineapple Weed (Wild Chamomile)
Foraging for Pineapple Weed
I just love this time of year. Everything is blooming and growing, and there are so many wild plants to forage and learn about.
One plant currently making a showing is the Pineapple Weed. It is known by many names, both common and scientific – but I like to keep things simple. For me it has 3 names: Pineapple Weed, Wild Chamomile, and the latin: Matricaria Discoidea.
Wild Chamomile Facts: Where to Forage & How to Identify Pineapple Weed
You’ll find this interesting edible and medicinal plant growing in the cracks of sidewalks, the edges of roadways, and other disturbed and even compacted soil. Anywhere nothing much else wants to grow. Pineapple weed prefer dry conditions and full sun.
Pineapple weed grows between 2 – 12″ tall, but generally toward the smaller end of the scale. These little guys are an annual herb that grows from seed to seed in under 100 days.
Pineapple weed is in fact related to Chamomile, and is a part of the Daisy family (Asteraceae [Compositae]).
It looks very much like German Chamomile, but without flower petals. New green flower heads have a very thin, translucent membrane before the entire head is covered with tiny yellow-green flowers.
The flower heads are a rounded cone shape, like a tiny green egg.
Pineapple weed leaves look similar to a dill plant or a delicate fern.
Before flower heads emerge they resemble the larger plant Dog Fennel which is non-edible (although it has external uses).
Once flower heads develop, the pineapple weed is easily identified. If petals develop, it may be a Mayweed Chamomile.
A certain method which in all likelihood spawned its’ common name, is to crush the leaves or flower head and smell it.
Edible, Medicinal & Other Uses:
Pineapple weed has a sweet, mild pineapple scent and makes a lovely potpourri. Hang upside-down to dry and use as you would any potpourri.
Wild Chamomile will also help repel insects. Simply rub the plant over exposed skin.
Medicinally, pineapple weed has been used in folk medicine to treat colds, upset tummy (indigestion, diarrhea), to ease menstrual cramping, and soothe sores to name a few. Along with treating tummy upsets, it shares another valued quality with your usual Chamomile tea; it has a mild sedative effect which can help alleviate nervous conditions, stress, anxiety and insomnia.
The leaves of the plant, while edible, can be very bitter and most people prefer to forage only for the flower heads for use as a tea or snack.
The flower heads, stalks, and leaves are edible raw or cooked (all but the root). Pineapple weed flower heads can be eaten straight from the plant as a snack (make sure they are not sprayed or otherwise chemically treated – roadside plants should not be eaten as they are exposed to engine exhaust), used in salads, soups and breads or as a delightfully mild-pineapple flavored tea.
Making Pineapple Weed Tea
Use either dried or fresh wild chamomile flower heads to make a tea that will soothe your nerves and stomach.
When using fresh pineapple weed, add 1/4 cup of flower heads and 3 cups of boiling water to a tea pot. Cover to keep oils from evaporating. Let steep 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey.
NOTE: Some people are allergic to wild chamomile (pineapple weed). Use caution and consume only in very small amounts until you’re sure it won’t cause a reaction.
As always, forage using common sense. If you are not 100% sure; DON’T eat it. Some herbs may interact with medications, check with your doctor.