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This is a very common plant found around freshwater and watery ditches. It is in the same family as Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata).

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Persicaria is genus of herbaceous plants flowering plants known as the knotweeds or smartweeds. There are different varieties all over the world. The lance shaped leaves that have fine hairs along the edge are alternatively arranged coming off at sheathed nodes on the self supporting stems which can also shoot off at the nodes with new stems.

As there are many types of Persicaria and many hybrids it’s important to point out there aren’t any dangerous lookalikes. A number have a darker spot on the leaves like the most common Redshank (Persicaria maculosa) but this prefers drier areas. Once the pink flowers are out Water Pepper has far more of a droop on the flowers that Redshank. But in my opinion it’s easier to give the leaf a little nibble.

As with all freshwater plants pick above the water line and use to finish dishes. I love using in sauces, green oils, pickled walnut pesto and as a substitute for Vietnamese coriander.

* WARNING: There is a plant we need to ensure it’s not being Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis). It doesn’t have the long lance leaves although they are lanceolate shaped so much wider and fatter. Dogs mercury also has serrations on the leaves that are very crowded at the top. By now the flowers will have died back (flowers in spring). It is a toxic plant. In my opinion looks entirely different but is so common in woodlands, hedgerows or anywhere shady. This plant is normally picked when people are gathering carelessly especially in Wild Garlic season. So as I have always said ID everything properly.


Author george

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