Wednesday, 14 May 2014

What's in a name?

I seem to know enough about the flowers in my garden, but not about the wild flowers I see when out walking.  I love second-hand bookshops and was lucky enough to find this book in Chichester when on a uni visit to my daughter:

When the glorious blue carpets of bluebells have disappeared for another year Anthriscus sylvestris, more commonly known as Cow Parsley, suddenly pops up, turning the road verges white and filling up pathways with a beautiful flowery froth - it is my favourite wild flower. 

But Cow Parsley is not its only common name; here in Kent it's also called Sheep's Parsley or Kelk and it has a great many interesting local names in other parts of Britain and Ireland.  It's apparently edible but I've never tried it.  However, it does seem to have a dark side:  many of the names are also applied to it's very poisonous cousin Hemlock, which sometimes grows next to Cow Parsley and could be mistaken for it if you don't know the difference, with disastrous results, and which might explain the connection to the Devil in some of the names - I had no idea there were so many (taken from The Englishman's Flora, Geoffrey Grigson):

Adder's Meat, Oldrot, Gipsy Curtains, Gipsy Flower, Gipsy's Parsley, Gipsy's Umbrella, Cow Chervil, June Flower, Lady’s lace, Scabby Hands, Scabs (Somerset)
Bad Man's Oatmeal, Devil’s Meat, Cisweed, White Meat, Whiteweed (Yorkshire
Deil's Meal (Scotland)
Devil's Oatmeal (Surrey)
Devil's Parsley, Kadle Dock (Cheshire)
Naughty Man's Oatmeal (Warwickshire)
Ciss (Lancashire)
Coney Parsley (Sussex)
Cow-weed (Essex)
Da-Ho, Keeshion (Northern Ireland)
Dog Parsley (Hertfordshire)
Dog's Carvi (Shetland)
Eldrot, My Lady's Lace, Queen Anne's Lace Handkerchief (Dorset)
Ha-Ho, Hi-How (Ireland)
Honiton Lace (Devon)
Kedlock (Derbyshire)
Kellock, Kewsies (Lincolnshire)
Kesk, Scab Flower (Cumbria)
Lady's Needlework, Sweet Ash (Gloucestershire)
Mayweed (Worcestershire)
Moonlight (Wiltshire)
Rabbit's Food (Buckinghamshire)
Wild Carraway (Banffshire)

Cicely (Derbyshire, Yorkshire)
Cow-mumble (Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire)
Eltrot (Dorset, Wiltshire)
Gipsy Laces (Dorset, Somerset)
Hare's Parsley (Somerset, Wiltshire)
Hemlock (Cheshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire)
Kelk (Wiltshire, Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland)
Rabbit's Meat (Devon, Somerset, Sussex, Warwickshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire)
Sheep's Parsley (Kent, Norfolk)
Wild Parsley (Lincolnshire, Radnor)

[NOTE:  after posting the above splurge I caught up with Knitsofacto where Annie is already on the wild flower trail, using them to dye yarns amazing colours; don't know how I missed her last couple of posts, really good stuff.  Apologies if I've unwittingly repeated things.]

* * *

When my daughter said she was spending a day at Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly (something to do with her theatre and performance degree and culture) I was quick to put in a tea order:

In each box there's a little bit of info:  "One of the first teas to be sold at Fortnum & Mason was Black Bohea, a China tea with a distinctive black leaf, that was somewhat stronger than Pekoe.  In 1720 it retailed at an eye-watering twenty five shillings a pound (£2,650 in today's prices).  After purchase, a sit down with a nice cup of tea was advised." I should imagine that was after someone had picked you up off the floor!  

Fortunately, Fortnums tea doesn't cost anything like the 1720 prices and the Countess Grey is nectar sent from the Gods - I kid you not.

Hope all is well out there ...
Jane x

PS  Thank you for all your kind comments on the Bee Village post. Jx


  1. Who would've thought good old cow parsley would have so many local names?! Incredible! It's interesting that there are a few oatmeal ones as well as quite a few other parsley ones - all fascinating names too, makes you wonder about the history of each name - some good stories behind lots of them I reckon!
    I certainly agree with you Jane re: the nectar reference to the Countess Grey teabags, as you were so kind enough to give me one! It certainly was divine, and I had second dippings with it half an hour later!
    Look forward to seeing you Wednesday for our trip to the CFS!
    Gill xx

  2. Now that is posh Jane - I shall remember this little heads up next time I am in London.
    Kate x