Free Food: Coltsfoot


 Coltsfoot looks at first glance like a dandelion, but look closer and you notice the differences.

Coltsfoot or Tussilago farfara L is one of the first plants to flower after the winter. They come out about the same time as the crocuses and add their bright yellow to an otherwise still brown landscape.
The name, Tussilago, comes from the Latin tussis, meaning cough. This plant is aptly named as coltsfoot has long been used as a cough syrup. 

Coltsfoot is a member of the Asteraceae family and is a perennial with an unusual growth habit. A single flower head appears in the early spring and coltsfoot is often mistaken for a dandelion.  It is fairly simply to identify, though, as there is little else growing at the time it first appears.

The seed head of the coltsfoot plant does bear a resemblance to the seed head of a dandelion, however, the flower of coltsfoot usually has died down by the time the dandelion appears. The leaves appear after the flower stem dies. This aids in identification.

A native of Europe, Coltsfoot thrives in North America in waste spaces and along roadsides. I have snacked on coltsfoot picked in my backyard and washed. In and emergency, it would do but I am not going to add it to my menu.

" Coltsfoot flowers can be eaten. They can be tossed into salads to add a wonderful aromatic flavour; or fill a jar with the flowers and add honey to make a remedy to help calm a cough or to sweeten a bitter herbal tea. Dried flowers can be dried and chopped up so that they can be added to pancakes, fritters, etc. Young leaves can be added to soups or strews and small quantities of fresh young leaves can be used in salads. The leaves have a bitter taste unless they are washed after being boiled. An aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves and flowers. The dried and burnt leaves are used as a salt substitute."

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