Foraging and Using Yarrow

Are you curious about foraging and using yarrow? This is a plant with countless benefits – so let’s dive in!

full yarrow plant including roots
full yarrow plant including roots

Personally, we love using, growing and foraging for yarrow. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a green fern-like foliage with tiny flowers ranging in different colors. It can grow between ankle and knee height, and may allude you if you blink.

Named for the reference to Achilles, the hero of the Trojan wars for its widespread use in stopping bleeding, yarrow commonly flowers in June to September, depending on location.

It is found among grass, in meadows and along open pastures. Yarrow leaves and blossoms are both edible, and are a great source of Vitamin B1.

Some of yarrow uses medicinal uses include helping with liver function, helping with kidney stones, and also assisting with stabilizing blood pressure.

To see what you need when foraging, read the post here.

Yarrow Benefits and Uses

Foraging for Yarrow

While yarrow is easy to grow in your own backyard, it is a wild plant that is often found growing in most places around the country.

Where Can Yarrow Be Found?

Yarrow has a pretty wide range. It can be found in every state in the United States as well as most of Europe.

Really, the only place it can’t be found is in the desert – so if you live in the Mojave Desert, you’re probably out of luck.

Identifying Wild Yarrow

It can be found among grass, meadows, or pastures. To grow yourself, you just need to find a place with partial to full sunlight and good drainage. It is spread by the roots, so it can easily overtake an area.

There are several subspecies and varieties, each of which varies in terms of where it is grown. It is generally found at sea level all the way up to 11,500 feet in elevation. It flowers from May until July, with most active growth occurring in the spring.

Yarrow is a wooly plant with feather-like leaves. It is these frilly leaves that help set this plant apart from its many potential look-alikes.

young yarrow plants growing in the field
young yarrow plants growing in the field

The stem is grooved and also has wool-like hairs. When you pick up a plant and crush the leaves in your hands, you’ll notice that they give off an aroma that is not unlike fresh pine needles!

The name “millefolium” comes from the fact that it looks like it has a thousand leaves. Leaves are edible and often used in teas or flavorings in recipes. In culinary use, it can be used interchangeably with tarragon.

When mature, yarrow has a flower stalk that is two or more feet tall. This stalk ends in a small cluster of daisy-like flowers.

Usually, these flowers are white or pale pink, though cultivated varieties can be orange, yellow, red, or pink. The flowers are usually about two to four inches in size and appear in flattened, loose heads, called cymes.

yarrow flowers
yarrow flowers

These flowers appear on the plant in Spring through the Summer and are useful in medicines, teas, and are edible. The smell of the blossoms is similar to mum flowers.

Yarrow can grow to be 24 inches in height, and has a deep well developed rhizomatous root. It’s stalk is a single stem that is fibrous and rough. Leaves are even distributed among the stem, and the ones near the middle and bottom will be the largest.

It is incredibly common in the United States, found in every habitat except those that are extremely desert-like in their climate.

If you are foraging in your own backyard, there’s nothing you need to do besides clip any yarrow plants you find and then allow them to dry. However, you must be sure to ask permission if you are foraging in other areas.

Be careful foraging in areas with which you aren’t totally familiar, as you need to make sure the plants haven’t been sprayed with chemicals like herbicides.

Yarrow Look Alikes

When foraging, you will likely find that there are a few plants that are similar in appearance to yarrow.

Elderflower is one common “twin” that people misidentify. Again the key here is looking at the lacy leaves of the yarrow plant – elderflower doesn’t have these.

Yarrow is often misidentified as Queen Anne’s lace as well. They share similar features except for one – Queen Anne’s lace has a true flower that is umbel-shaped.

It usually has a small, dark dot in the center. This plant also has a much hairier stem, and gives off the smell of carrots when crushed.

That’s because this plant is also known as wild carrot. Although Queen Anne’s lace also has culinary and medicinal benefits, it is not the same plant as yarrow and therefore, it’s important to know the differences when identifying either one.

You won’t suffer too much if you mistake Queen Anne’s lace for yarrow – but the next look-alike to be aware of is poison hemlock. Misidentifying this plant can have devastating consequences.

Poison hemlock, Conium maculatum, is extremely toxic. However, the good news is that poison hemlock looks less like yarrow than Queen Anne’s lace.

These plants are about four times the size as yarrow and the stem has distinctive purple spots. Younger plants can be tougher to differentiate, since they aren’t as tall, but still – the spots should help give it away.

Using Wild Yarrow

You can use the entire yarrow plant, from the stems to the roots, the leaves and the flowers, for your medicinal and culinary purposes. When you forage, know that the younger leaves will be less bitter than the old ones.

If you still find that the yarrow you’ve foraged is too bitter, try cutting them into a chiffonade with a sweeter fresher herb to combat the strong flavors.

Just about anyone can benefit from yarrow, but it’s important to note that pregnant women should avoid it.

It hasn’t been studied among pregnant women much as an external remedy, but has been linked to miscarriages when consumed internally.

yarrow buds
yarrow buds

Cooking With Yarrow

Want to know how to use up all that delicious and medicinal yarrow? Here are some tips!

Roasted Carrots With Yarrow

Try the recipe for roasted carrots and yarrow flowers below to see what YOU think!

  • 1 pound carrots
  • ¼ cup fresh yarrow flowers and stems
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • To make:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. Peel carrots, and leave long.
  3. Rub down with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.
  4. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Chop the yarrow flowers and stems into small pieces and top carrots.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, until just slightly soft.

Yarrow Tea

This is great when you are feeling under the weather, but you need to use it as soon as you recognize symptoms to get the most benefit. It can help settle an upset stomach and supports your immune system in speeding healing.

  • 3 parts red raspberry leaf
  • 1 part nettle
  • 1 part alfalfa
  • 1 part mint
  • 1/4 part yarrow

Mix herbs together and store in an airtight jar. Use 2 T. per quart of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Drain and sweeten as desired, preferably with raw honey.

Penne With Yarrow

If pasta is more your style, you’ll want to consider this recipe. It contains yarrow along with other soft herbs, like parsley, chervil, and tarragon – it is absolutely delicious and easy to make. Here’s the recipe.

Yarrow Salve

Yarrow can also be used as a healing salve. It’s no different than making any other type of healing salve and it will come together with just a few simple ingredients.

You can combine it with other materials, like rose, calendula, lemon balm, lavender, or plantain, to add other benefits, or use it as the key ingredient.

Here is a recipe to try. The healing salve can be used to treat minor topical injuries like rashes, burns, cuts, and scrapes.

Yarrow: An Herb With Many Uses!

Yarrow can be found just about everywhere in the United States, making it a great wild herb to consider adding to your foraging list. In fact, it’s often found growing in many cities in addition to more rural areas – so you have no excuse not to start looking for it today!

What are some ways you would like to use yarrow? Will you forage for it this Spring and Summer? Be sure to pin this for later!

yarrow pin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *