So aghast was Peter Gabriel – well known vocalist, and unlikely amateur botanist, in 70s beat combo Genesis – at the prevalence of Giant Hogweed in the United Kingdom, he wrote a song expressing these fears.
Appearing on 1971’s Nursery Cryme, Gabriel spends 8 mins 9 secs regaling his anguish at humanity’s downfall due to the aggression of this wicked and pernicious weed. During the band’s extravagant live shows of the era, he’d even go as far as to dress as a Giant Hogweed while the band performed the song (which, among other things, is a Phil Collins masterclass in prog rock drumming).
Waste no time!
They are approaching
Hurry now, we must protect ourselves
and find some shelter
When I was a kid, we called Giant Hogweed ‘Cow Parsley’ and were warned away from it, as it is toxic. It is one of two memories I have of this plant, the other being my dad – an actual botanist – air-drumming his way around the kitchen after just about the right amount of tequila while Gabriel, Collins, Hackett, Rutherford and Banks were in full flow.
But despite the inherent danger to Giant Hogweed, its relative, Common Hogweed, is quite safe to eat and very popular with foragers. When ripe, the stems are delicious (I found one particularly tasty recipe where they are fried in tempura batter and served with a soy dipping sauce). Interestingly, they tend to grow fatter and juicier when found near the sea – say, for example, on the East Neuk of Fife in Scotland, from where today’s beer originates.
Common Hogweed seeds produce deeply pungent aromatics resembling orange peel and cardamom, and in this classically Belgian-style saison they’ve been used to wonderful effect, infusing musk, spice and zest. It’s likely you haven’t heard of Futtle, one of Scotland’s most exciting new breweries, but a sip or two into this beer and, like me, you’ll be eager to find out more. Futtle is one of the most exciting prospects in British beer right now, so make sure you keep an eye on it.
On its surface, this saison is an ideal table beer. Its quaffable 4% ABV takes a bit of the weight out of what you might find in some stronger iterations of this style. This gives the hogweed seeds room to groove, and although their presence isn’t dominating, it provides a special something to what is already a highly delicious beverage – its snappy, dry finish will ensure you take very little time over it. Best paired with a stick of Nag Champa, your favourite 70s prog on the turntable, and whatever else you might have lying around.
Still they're invincible
Still they're immune to all our herbicidal battering
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like Futtle's Organic Saison every month plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.