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Dame's Rocket - aromatic, beautiful invasive weed


Over the last few weeks in the Creston Valley we have seen an abundance of purple blooms flourishing by the roadsides, on slopes, in woodland and pastures. Walk or drive by these places in the evening and the smell is intoxicating in its beauty.


This “wildflower” was actually introduced to North America in the 17th century from Europe and, while it is a beautiful smelling and lovely looking plant, it is considered an invasive weed in many areas of Canada and is on the invasive species list for the Central Kootenays*. Regrettably it is a rapid spreader and can choke out our native plants. So, by eating and using this plant you are actually helping the environment!



This plant has a beautiful scent, but only in the evening, when it releases its gorgeous fragrance. It has a unique scent - a sweet floral aroma, almost rose-like with a touch of ‘green’.  It can bring a wonderful smell to your home, but make sure you harvest it in the evening if you are going to capture that wonderful fragrance. It has been widely used in the perfume industry and you can layer the aromatic flowers in Epsom salt to capture the scent for bath salts.


Dame’s rocket is a food source for caterpillars as well as a nectar source for butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. Ways to benefit these pollinators but not let this plant become invasive is to let it flower for a short period of time and then cut the tops off so it doesn't go to seed as it can disseminate the seeds widely if not controlled. This way the pollinators and our native plants both win!



The unopened flower buds and the flowers are also delicious and have a lovely sweet, slightly pungent taste. The texture of the leaf is somewhat furry, but it’s still fine to eat. You can put dame’s rocket leaves and flowers into your salads; add them to other greens to stir fry and you can even make them into pesto. The flowers are used to add spicy flavors to fruit dishes and salads and the seed pods can be added to stews and soups. Do be aware though that this plant is part of the mustard family and the leaves of it definitely have a bit of mustard kick.




Dame’s rocket does have medicinal properties and has been used medicinally to induce sweating to break a fever, promote urination, and loosen a cough. Historically the seeds were said to be “a most efficacious cure for stings and bites of serpents and they were sometimes mixed with vinegar to cure freckles.”

 


*For more on invasive species management we encourage you to check out the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society’s webpage at https://ckiss.ca/ . We are honoured to be partnering with this great organization on educational programs. Watch our social media for upcoming opportunities to participate in events.



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