Honesty - Lunaria annua


Foraging and identification of Honesty (Lunaria annua)

Edible plant - novice Season - spring/summer Common names honesty, money plant, silver dollar, money-in-both-pockets, money wort, penny flower, pricksong flower, lunaria, moon wort


Scientific name meaning: Both parts of this name have Latin origins, from Lun, meaning moon, and annua, from annu: annual.

Habitat

Found as a cultivated plant in gardens and as a garden escapee in woodlands, on waste ground and in hedgerows. It is a native of the Balkans and south west Asia.

Overall structure

A biennial plant forming a rosette of low growing heart-shaped leaves in its first year and having leggy erect growth in its second. Reaches up to 1.5m tall in year two.

Leaves

The dull green leaves are finely hairy and heart-shaped with toothed edges and long stems.

Stem

The stem is pale green with sparse hairs

Flower

The flowers are 3 - 5cm wide and have four petals, arranged in a cross shape. Purple is the most common colour of the petals, but a white variant also occurs.

Fruit

The seed pods are disc shaped and the seeds, looking like musical notes, can be easily seen through the flesh. They start of a bright green, and mature with a dark purple hue before eventually turning brown. Once the outer part (valve) falls away a silvery paper-like structure (septum) remains.

Possible lookalikes

Most likely to be confused with hedge garlic (Alliaria petiolata) which is also edible.


Use as a food The flower can be eaten raw or added to salads, having a flavour reminiscent of pea shoots and mild mustard. The fresh (bright green) seed pods can be used as a mustard substitute, and the root is also strongly flavoured and can be eaten grated or cooked. The intensity of the seed flavour can be increased by grinding up with cold water, or reduced with warm water. ​ Hazards None known.


Use in herbal medicine and medicine None known. The plant contains nervonic acid, which is used in the treatment of demyelation diseases such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. However, it is found in brain tissue and sinews or fish and mammals, and also in other seed oils. It is not currently extracted from this plant for pharmaceutical use but its potential is being researched. If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner Other uses Biodiesel and lubricants can be extracted from the seed oil ​ Importance to other species Provides a nectar source for pollinators.


Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!