Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)

This plant is regarded as destructive and a nuisance due to its invasive nature, and it’s true that when it takes hold it has a tendency to push out our native plants and can be difficult to eradicate. It loves to grow in very damp areas, particularly alongside rivers and streams and takes over where the summer Meadowsweet left off. Despite its bad press it is a very valuable source of food for bees and the flowers are perfectly shaped for the extraction of nectar.

I must confess that I have a childish and irresistible urge to pop the seed heads when I spot them. You have to wait until they’re just ripe, usually bulging a bit in the middle, and gently place your fingertips at the bottom and squeeze. The result never fails to make me jump as the pod explodes in a spiral pattern. Each seed is capable of being catapulted up to seven metres away!

It is also edible, the flowers can be picked and used in salads or drinks to add flavour and a lovely pink colour or, if you have the time and inclination to pick large quantities, the flowers can be made into an intensely sweet jam. Meanwhile the small black seeds can be eaten straight from the pods or incorporated in stews or curry, cakes and bread.