Common name: Pineapple weed, Pineappleweed, wild chamomile, disc mayweed, May weed, false chamomile, rayless chamomile
Botanical name: Matricaria discoidea (syn Matricaria matricarioides)
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy)
Worldwide distribution: Native to Northeast Asia and North America. Naturalised in the UK and Ireland.
Local distribution: Common and widespread throughout the UK and Ireland. Less common in some parts of Scotland.
Habitat: Fields, parks, wasteland and roadsides.
Foraging season: Spring to late summer.
This non-native species, originally from Asia, was introduced as a garden plant in the UK in the 18th century. Apparently, it escaped from Kew Gardens and became one of the fastest spreading plants in the British Isles ever since.
Despite this abundance, it is often overlooked. Nobody would expect to find such a delicate aromatic plant around foot paths, trampled field entrances, driveways and roadsides.
A weed is a plant growing in a place you don’t want to, but some of these plants are indeed useful in the kitchen. Pineapple weed is, as its name suggests, a ‘weed’ that smells and tastes of pineapple, a flavour and aroma you wouldn’t find in the wild in Britain otherwise.
The flower heads can be added raw to salads and infused to make refreshing drinks such as iced tea or cordial. Pineapple weed tea can also be used as a base for sorbet or granita. Make delicious puddings and desserts infusing cream to make panna cotta or ice cream.
Pineapple weed has been used for medicinal purposes to treat sores, fevers and digestive upsets. This plant is considered an effective insect repellent.
Some caution is advised since some people experience allergies to pineapple weed. Use with caution and consume only in very small amounts until you’re sure it agrees your body.