Where might we find this bold little plant?
Pineapple Weed (Matricaria Discoidea) likes to loiter around well compacted ground, so whether it’s kicking it in an old industrial site or standing by a way-side, where there’s well drained hard ground with a good deal of light you’ve a good chance of finding it. It’s a non native to the UK, originating from North America and North Asia it has become naturalised for the most part and is very widespread. Chances are you’ll recognise this plant perhaps having not known what it was, keep your eyes peeled between May and November as you stroll through the park or even down the street and you’ve a good chance of seeing Pineapple Weed staring at you from a gap in the tarmac or the base of a wall.
As an aside, if you’re collecting M. Discoidea, think about where you’re collecting it from. Make sure you have permission to remove the plant, don’t take too many from a particular area and also make sure you’re not gathering from an area where the plant may have been exposed to pollutants from traffic or the dog walking crowd.
Who is this dauntless ruderal?
Pineapple Weed - Wild Chamomile - Disc-Mayweed.
Pineapple Weed a member of the ever chilled out Chamomile Tribe, under the bright and friendly Asteraceae (Sunflower) family. In the Genus Matricaria, its cousin Chamomile (M. chamomilla) is commonly the source of most commercially available Chamomile tea, Pineapple Weed is the punk-rock version of its sell-out mainstream cousin, but we’ll get onto that in soon.
It’s an annual plant, so its short life is spent during a single year growing to between 3cm and 40cm tall (Most examples I’ve found have been in the lower half of that height range). Matricaria Discoidea is a tough plant; you’ll note a very resilient stem for an herbaceous plant and its feathery pinnate leaves look delicate, but can stand up to being trodden on and driven over. Pineapple Weed has conical flowers, being densely packed and green-yellow they lack the ‘ray-like’ petals of its sunflower relatives. Crushing the leaves between your fingers you’ll discover at a sniff why we call M. Discoidea the Pineapple Weed: the sweet scent is quite remarkable. There’s no other plant which looks similar and smells so much like pineapple, so be sure when making an ID of the plant to use your nose.
What Can We Do with This Fruity Punk-Rock Plant?
You can use Pineapple Weed to make your own Indy-chamomile tea.
Just steep a tea-bag’s worth of chopped pineapple weed in hot water for 5 minutes. The plant is entirely edible so you can drink the brew along with the leaves, or strain them for a more refined drink. My favourite eccentricity is to use the finely chopped leaves, stem and flowers is place of grounds in my coffee percolator giving me a light green drink with the mild calming effect of chamomile.
My absolute favourite thing to do with Pineapple Weed though is make a light syrup in the wood for pancakes or doughnut dipping!
Take a handful of the whole plant, give it a rinse, then pop it in a pan. Add enough water to just cover the pineapple weed and add a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Bring this up to boil and leave simmering until the mix is reduced to a light syrup. Take out the Pineapple weed and you’re left with a fantastic, fruity syrup just waiting to be poured over pancakes!
I originally produced this article for some friends at the Bushcraft Cave but have reproduced here again as it proved very popular!
I'd love to know what you think, have you used this little plant before or have you since reading this? Let me know in the comments below.
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all the best