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Yarrow Olive Tapenade (vegan)

Celebrate the first greens of early spring by making this easy vegan tapenade recipe that is infused with the freshness and health benefits of young yarrow leaves!

yarrow recipe


Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a special medicinal herb that has been used since ancient times. This delicate plant with beautiful white flowers can help with just about anything that might ail your mind, body, or soul. Like a beloved friend, the amount of support and gifts that yarrow brings is truly impressive.⁣

Achillea millefolium is the botanical name for yarrow. The plant was named after the Greek hero Achilles, who was said to have carried the herb with him onto the battlefields to heal wounds and staunch bleeding.⁣ The history of the relationship between yarrow and humans dates back much further though: pollen from yarrow was found in a Neanderthal grave that was at least 60,000 years old! Yarrow has also been used in Western Europe and China for centuries as a tool for divination, which include a variety of dream and waking rituals for discovering one’s true love.

Yarrow is an anti-inflammatory herb that can assist almost every system in our body, and is used for many different ailments*. These include: colds and flu, fevers, digestive issues, wound cleaning and controlling bleeding, skin irritations and infections, regulation of the female cycle, stimulation of liver health and the flow of bile, removal of toxins, and blood purification. Yarrow also helps to harmonize blood circulation, and can be beneficial in cases of stagnation such as varicose veins or fibroids, as well as symptoms of overstimulated blood flow like hypertension. The herb also helps to deter mosquitos and other biting insects and can help to soothe bites and stings in case they do get to us.

yarrow recipe

Yarrow isn't only a special ally to us humans, the plant also offers many benefits to the ecosystem. The vibrant flowers attract a host of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and predatory wasps. These little wasps prey on insect pests living on other neighboring plants. Being their host benefits the other plants and helps maintain the natural balance in the system. Several cavity-nesting birds like the common starling use yarrow to line their nests to inhibit the growth of parasites. Yarrow also helps remediate soil conditions by adding calcium, phosphorus, and silica to the soil, and preventing soil erosion with their deep, fibrous roots.


Yarrow grows in temperate climates all over the world, including coastal and mountainous regions. She flourishes in a sunny and warm habitat, and is often found in meadows, along roadsides, in disturbed areas, and on dry, sunny slopes. Yarrow is a member of the aster family, and closely related to chrysanthemums and chamomile. In temperate climates, she grows year-round, her flowers blooming in the spring and summer and then dying back.

Though yarrow is very common, so are some of her look-a-likes. It is important to be able to distinguish between them, because a few look-a-likes (like poison hemlock) are toxic. However, once you’ve gotten to know yarrow, you’ll probably find that the look-a-likes aren’t really all that close.

The first part of yarrow that you will see early in the season are her leaves. Yarrow's leaves are very distinctive, and there’s a reason her species name is “millefolium” or thousands of leaves. The leaves are feathery, as opposed to the more distinct leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace and other white flowering herbs. Later in the season the leaves will grow on an upright hairy stem, which is usually under 1 meter (3 feet). Yarrow's flowers are typically off-white, but can be pink or pale purple in mountainous areas. The petals are densely arranged in flattened clusters.

yarrow recipe


When you're creating herbal medicine, all parts of yarrow can be used : the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots. When using yarrow in a culinary way however, it is best to just focus on the young new leaves that emerge at the beginning of the season. While more mature leaves taste bitter and have a tougher texture, young leaves are usually more tender and sweeter.

Whether with yarrow or anything else in nature, it’s important to walk softly on the Earth and to forage with care. We are guests and receivers of gifts from wild lands and forests, so please consider how you can do this respectfully. Take only take what you need, and only pick a few leaves per plant, so that it has the best chance of continuing to mature into a healthy plant throughout the season.

Now that you have learned about the special yarrow plant and have harvested some leaves, let's make some tapenade!

yarrow recipe


*Be aware that while yarrow is generally considered safe, individual reactions are always possible. Usage is contraindicated for pregnant women as it can induce menstrual flow and could increase the risk of miscarriage.

Disclaimer: Every year there are people that are poisoned or experience other negative health effects from eating inedible wild plants or mushrooms that resemble edible species. For this reason it's essential to ensure proper species identification and to consult multiple quality sources for doing this. It's also important to always check and follow all local foraging regulations before you harvest anything in nature.


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