The unexperienced forager is daunted by the possibility of misidentification. It appears that many useful plants are coupled with a mischievous doppelgaenger which is often deadly. According to Plato, Socrates’ unexpected last words were: “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget.” It is thought that Socrates died as a result of hemlock (Conium sp.) poisoning. Hemlock is the doppelganger of the wild carrot (Daucus carota), a mostly innocuous plant which has served humankind in more than one capacity. Wild carrot is a biennial plant, following the general pattern of the two-year life cycle with a basal rosette the first year and a fuller flowering plant the second year. As expected, the first year root of wild carrot is the predecessor of the grocery store variety. Although to the accustomed eye, hemlock and wild carrot look nothing alike, they do have a few general common features that may cause confusion. However, the absence of hairs on the stems of hemlock in addition to its malodorous smell are easy giveaways even for the unexperienced. In August, the characteristic white flowering umbel is a common sight all over Berlin. Any observant visitor to the Mauerpark will quickly notice the delicate flowers of the wild carrot, although a visit to the park is not strictly necessary to find the plant. Wild carrot is a tenacious plant and it will grow almost anywhere that it finds a bit of undisturbed green space. Although the slight anise smell and taste of first-year roots have their own culinary merit, the contraceptive properties of wild carrot seeds have championed the value of the plant for millenia. A teaspoon of chewed wild carrot seeds daily was the ancients’ natural solution for birth control.
Among other places, the wild carrot grows freely along the path that follows the S-bahn tracks north out of Berlin. Take a look at our Berlin Plants Map for more details about the location!