Thursday, 28 September 2017


“Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.” – Helen Morgenthau Fox 

Apium nodiflorum (synonym Helosciadium nodiflorum), commonly called “fool’s-watercress”, is a flowering plant found in ditches or streams and native to western Europe. It is a low-growing or prostrate perennial with pinnate leaves which have a vague resemblance to those of watercress. It is classified in the Apiaceae family. 

Apium nodiflorum has short-stalked umbels of very small white 5-petalled flowers which are opposite the leaves and grow from the side of the stem at the leaf axils. It blooms in Summer (July and August). It is not a poisonous plant, but it could be easily confused with the allegedly poisonous lesser water parsnip – Berula erecta. It is common throughout England, Wales and Ireland but is much less so in Scotland. 

Apium nodiflorum is also sometimes known by the name of “Lebanese cress”, although many nurseries that sell it give it the incorrect botanical name of Aethionema cordifolium, which is an unrelated plant in the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family and which looks like nothing the real thing! 

Apium nodiflorum is an easy herb to grow and once it is established it can be difficult to eradicate! It grows well in shady, moist spots and will do well as a pond plant growing in a clay pot filled with soil and submerged in your pond. It happily grows all year and the tender young leafy shoots are the ones that harvested. It is a good source of aromatic greens for salads and soups. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A, B, C, iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

The flavour of the herb is earthy and fresh, somewhat like a cross between celery and carrot. Fresh, it is a welcome addition to green, leafy seasonal salads, coleslaws, potato salad, sandwiches and soups. It can be used to add flavour when cooking spinach, and various other stewing herbs or wild greens (see here).

The leafy parts of the herb added to a bouquet carry the message: “I am not what I seem”. If flowers are included, it changes its meaning to: “I have revealed my true nature to you”.

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