Like most weeds, pineapple-weed Matricaria discoidea suffers from a terrible PR problem. Despite its naturally sweet flavor which loiters at the crossroads of pineapple and chamomile, it is left to perish, unloved, at the edges of lawns and parking lots.
Its unusual appearance might be to blame. The flowerheads look like they've had a bad run-in with the hair clippers, left to hide their patchy haircut beneath a yellow cap - no petals in sight. Regardless of the origin of their disrepute, they remain one of the most underappreciated and accessible flavors of the wild.
Although many folks are hesitant about wild foods, most take to pineapple-weed like a duck to breadcrumbs. I've seen many a face light up with joy after nibbling on the sweet flowerheads. This is one weed that fights the stereotype that wild flavors are unappealing to the conventional palate.
To ease folks into the wild foods world even more, I like to offer them homemade strawberry liqueur infused with pineapple-weed. Sugar - and alcohol - can really help the weeds go down!
This recipe is based on a simple strawberry liqueur I've made for years as a way of preserving the fleeting flavor of summer strawberries. After finding a windfall of pineapple-weed at a local park, I threw some into the freshly-strained liqueur in a fit of joy. I was delighted by the outcome - the sweet flavor gently edges the strawberries into uncharted territory as they explore a world where chamomile and pineapple flavors come from the same plant.
Whether you'd like to make a liqueur or try out a simple tea, pineapple-weed is a great ambassador to the world of wild foods. Its sweet flavor tends to surprise and delight those who had dismissed it as an inedible lawn ornament only moments before.
Harvesting tip: To get the most pleasant flavor, I recommend using only the yellow flowerheads. They hold most of the pineapple flavor. The leaves tend to taste more like chamomile and can be a bit bitter, although they are usually fine in tea. To pluck the flowerheads, place them between your thumb and forefinger and gently pop them off of the plant.
Use the brightest and freshest-looking pineapple-weed flowerheads that you can find. It's okay if a few tiny leaves make their way in, but too many can add a bitter flavor. I recommend infusing the strawberries and the pineapple-weed separately as the pineapple-weed flavor infuses much more quickly.
This liqueur makes a great gift, especially for those who you want to get interested in wild foods. This recipe was developed entirely by taste.
Make the strawberry liqueur
Infuse the pineapple-weed
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