Common name: Silverweed
Scientific name: Argentina (Potentilla) anserina
Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
Silverweed is an unassuming plant of wet grasslands and tracksides, with an interesting history.
You will often spot silverweed at a distance on a breezy day, by the flashes of silvery white as the leaves are blown around. It is a low-growing plant. The leaves are split into 7-12 or so pairs of leaflets with a terminal leaflet, all with serrated edges. The top of the leaf is a glossy mid-green, while the underside is silver-white and downy. The flowers are pale yellow with 5 petals.
Silverweed used to be cultivated across Europe and North America as a wild vegetable crop until the 18th century, as its large roots are edible and taste similar to parsnip. Indeed, it wasn’t until modern, large-rooted parsnips were developed that silverweed harvesting was abandoned! Please do not dig up wild silverweed to taste these delicacies – it is more ecologically sound to collect seed in the late summer-autumn and grow the plant in your garden if you want to harvest the roots yourself! The leaves are also edible.
Silverweed is a useful astringent for treating diarrhoea and digestive problems. It can be used as a tea or tincture.
Scrub roots well to remove earth. Boil for 20 mins and serve with butter and perhaps a dash of soy sauce. The roots can also be dried in a sunny spot for a few days, then chopped and ground into flour for baking.