The white blooming baldmoney is an old medicinal plant that grows in Europe on poor meadows and light deciduous forests of low mountain ranges. The bushy plant smells strong and spicy. Because of the aromatic essential oils, which are reminiscent of fennel and lovage, baldmoney is also used in the kitchen. This is how you plant, care for, use and harvest the herb properly.
Profile of baldmoney:
Scientific name: Meum athamanticum
Plant family: umbellifer family (Apiaceae)
Other names: spignel, meu
Sowing time: Autumn
Planting time: October to November
Flowering period: May to June
Harvest time: Leaves: April to July; Root: from the 2nd year
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, moderately nutritious, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as a medicinal herb: indigestion, flatulence, loss of appetite
Use as spice herb: meat dishes, soups, stews, spirits, potatoes
Use in: single position, planters, apothecary garden, cotton garden, herb garden, pot garden
Winter hardiness: hardy
Bee and insect friendly: yes
Plant characteristics and classification of baldmoney
Plant order , origin and occurrence of baldmoney
Spignel (Meum athamanticum), a spicy herb from the umbellifer family (Apiaceae), is closely related to the medicinal plant angelica (Angelica archangelica), lovage (Levisticum officinale) and parsley (Petroselinum crispum). The plant occurs on mountain mowing meadows, stony sites and scree slopes in low-mountain ranges in western and Central Europe and in the Alps. The root was previously prepared as a vegetable – increasingly in the Scottish highlands, where the plant grows as well and is known there as meum. Above all, however, the herb is known for its use in the Bavarian Forest and the Ore Mountains, where the root of the spice plant is used to distil the digestive and stomach-strengthening „Bärwurz schnapps“. The plant is protected in the Bavarian Forest. The german name „Bärwurz“ probably comes from the fact that the plant was used in folk medicine during pregnancy and the term is a variation of “uterus”.
Characteristics of baldmoney
Baldmoney has a long and thick rhizome that grows up to one meter (40 in) deep and has a fiber crest in the upper area. From this grows a herbaceous and bushy perennial that is about 30 centimeters (12 in) high and 20 centimeters (10 in) wide. The hardy plant smells aromatic and spicy of fennel.
The elongated, light to medium green, feathery leaves sit on hollow and bare stems and are pinnate three to four times with hair-thin sections about five millimeters (0.2 in) short. When grated, the leaves exude a scent reminiscent of fennel, dill and lovage.
From May to the end of June, tiny, creamy white and pink single flowers appear in small, three to six centimeters (1.2 to 2.4 in) wide double umbels.
The baldmoney light brown nut fruits are light brown, about ten millimeters (0.4 in) long, three millimeters (0.12 in) wide and have six edges.
Baldmoney – cultivation and care
In its natural environment, bladmoney grows mainly in sunny to partially shaded locations.
Spignel grows best on soils which are characterized by rather acidic, humus-rich and slightly permeable soils. Whitewashed garden floors and soils are therefore not suitable. Soils that are too loamy should be loosened up with sand or fine-grained expanded clay. Organic potting soils without peat content are recommended as potting soil, provided that the pH is below 6.5.
The seeds can be sown directly in the open in early autumn. In order for the seeds to germinate, they must first go through the state of dormancy. This requires the seeds to be exposed to cold temperatures for several weeks. Baldmoney is a cold germ. The sowing area should always be slightly damp. It is advisable to protect the area from voracious rodents and birds with a fine net.
In the field, a planting distance of around 50 cm (20 in) per plant is recommended. Sowing on the balcony is generally possible. However, only deep pots or tubs should be used as planters.
The water requirements of adult plants can be classified as low to moderate. Due to its root system, the umbellifer is able to manage for a long time without additional water supply. If the baldmoney is in sunny to full sun, it should be watered on consecutive very hot days in the evening.
Spignel is a plant with a higher nutritional requirement. The demand grows with increasing root growth. In the first year, additional fertilization is generally not necessary if the soil is rich in nutrients. Mulching at the end of the growing season is recommended, which usually occurs in October. An alternative is to add small amounts of compost or horn meal. However, compost should be used sparingly, since compost often raises the pH-value.
Diseases and pests
Unfortunately, baldmoney is very popular with quite a few predators like snails, aphids, thrips. If the plant is to be used as a culinary herb, many chemical agents are excluded. In the case of thrips or aphid infestation, ladybird larvae or special herbal swills, e.g. of field horsetail, nettle and comfrey can be used.
It is rarely attacked by a fungus called Nyssopsora echinata. This is a rust fungus that spreads mainly on the stem. Characteristic are black to dark brown spots, which are mostly on the leaf axils. Nyssopsora primarily uses baldmoney as a host plant to spread its spores. In the case of infestation, it is recommended to extensive cut off the corresponding areas.
The leaves, the roots and the fruits of spignel can be harvested. The leaves can also be dried after harvesting, whereby the typical smell is remarkably retained. Harvesting the roots is usually only worthwhile from the second year. The aroma of the leaves decreases slightly as the fruit ripens.
Baldmoney is hardy.
Use of the baldmoney
Baldmoney in the kitchen
In the past, baldmoney was a popular and often used spice, which unfortunately has been wrongfully forgotten. The herb can be used in many ways in the kitchen and enriches many dishes with a very individual touch.
Both fine leaves, roots and seeds are used. Baldmoney leaves have a fennel to anise-like taste with subtle nuances of savory, lovage and parsley. The leaves are ideal for:
- Fish dishes
- As a spice for potatoes, especially baked potatoes
- for herb marinades for pickling meat (here especially the seeds)
Since the leaves are relatively soft, they should not be fried. In this case, its seeds or fruits can be used, which at best are easily crushed with a mortar. In the oven, especially for potatoes or fish, wrapping in a foil is suitable. The leaves can be boiled without any problems, since the flavorings they contain do not evaporate.
The roots of the plant are also used to make a herbal liqueur. They have an intense spicy and strikingly sweet aroma with a sharp sub note. Some spirits manufacturers produce „Bärwurz schnapps“ commercially, which is drunk as an aperitif or digestif due to its appetizing and digestive properties. Seeds are rarely used for the production of schnapps, although their taste is already noticeably different.
Baldmoney as a medicinal herb
Baldmoney has been known to humans for many hundreds of years and partly used intensively as a medicinal plant. Today the umbellifer is only used in folk medicine.
In the herbal books of the Middle Ages and early modern times, baldmoney was known as wild fennel, although it must be said that the plant was described as one species with the Alpine motherwort (Mutellina adondifolia). Medicinal wines and the powdered root were used to treat kidney problems, abdominal pain and flatulence. The herb was also used as an ingredient for a theriac and a confection. A theriac is a kind of universal medicine that consisted of several medicinal plants. A confection, on the other hand, is a kind of viscous dosage form in which the respective drug is mixed with honey. However, both applications are no longer used. Their benefits and therapeutic effects have not yet been scientifically tested, so that no statement can be made about their effectiveness.
In today’s herbal medicine, spignel is rarely used actively. It is actively used primarily in the form of schnapps for mild indigestion. The root, which is referred to as „Mei athamantici radix“, is of particular medical importance. This mainly contains essential oils, some well-known phenylacrylic acids such as caffeic acid and its precursors, and phthalides such as ligustilide.
Baldmoney can be used for these ailments and diseases
- bladder disorders
- loss of appetite
- heart failure
- intestinal catarrh
- kidney disease
- menstrual cramps
- appetite enhancing
- gastric strengthening
- heart strengthening
- menstrual strengthening
Spignel is currently ignored in the scientific environment, so that there are currently no studies or clinical research results.
Use of fresh leaves
The leaves of spignel can be used in the kitchen like parsley. They stimulates appetite and promotesdigestion. The crushed herb can be used for wraps against skin diseases or gout pain.
Preparation of a badmoney tea
Dash 250 ml of hot water over 1 teaspoon of dried leaves and let it steep for 10 minutes, then strain. It helps against digestive problems.
Dash 250 ml of hot water over 1 teaspoon of seeds and let steep for 20 minutes, strain. It helps with migraines, poor appetite, bladder problems.
Since the plant has so far received little attention in clinical studies, no test for risks has been carried out so far. For safety reasons, baldmoney should not be used during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Harvesting baldmoney – what should be considered?
Baldmoney is relatively easy to determine in its natural range. There is always a risk of confusion with other umbelliferae such as fennel or dill. The latter are not to be found wildly however. The herb can be determined relatively easily by rubbing the leaves. If they smell aromatic of a mixture between fennel, lovage and parsley, it is usually baldmoney.
Baldmoney is in the red list of endangered vascular plants. However, there are no harvesting restrictions per se. It should be noted that the individual states and countries can, however, issue their own regulations and restrictions.
Some people are going for the roots. However, therefor often restrictions can be found. If there is interest in the root of the plant, you should start your own cultivation.