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Coltsfoot or Dandelion?

Identification, Medicinal
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Coltsfoot Flowers

Coltsfoot Flowers

The earth is finally waking up here in the Northeast, and you are probably going to notice a lot of yellow flowers: forsythia, witch hazel, daffodils (not wild), dandelion and coltsfoot.

Many people when they come across coltsfoot assume they are dandelions. The flowers look very similar, but here is some information that will help you tell them apart (very important when using wild plants for food or medicine!)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) actually flower slightly before dandelion in general, but there is so much overlap that that in itself isn’t a very helpful way to distinguish. What is interesting is that coltsfoot sends up its flowers BEFORE its leaves come out, while dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves appear first. The leaves of the two plants are very different.

Coltsfoot flowers appear before their leaves

Coltsfoot flowers appear before their leaves

Dandelion leaves appear in a rosette before the flower.

Dandelion leaves appear in a rosette before the flower.

Dandelion flowers have a smooth stem, while coltsfoot flowers have scales on their flower stem.

Note the scaled flower stem of the coltsfoot flower

Note the scaled stem of the coltsfoot flower

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Once the coltsfoot leaves appear, it is easy to see the difference. Coltsfoot leaves are rounded or heart shapes, while dandelion has a rosette of toothed leaves (”dandelion” is French for lion’s teeth).

Here you can clearly see the round/heart shaped leaves of coltsfoot.

Here you can clearly see the round/heart shaped leaves of coltsfoot.

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Medicinally, they have very different uses.

Dandelion is known to be good for the liver. Some take it as a liver tonic in the spring. The flowers, leaves and roots are all used. In Chinese Medicine dandelion is known as Pu Gong Ying and clears “heat toxicity,” used to treat infections. In both eastern and western herbology, dandelion is known to help breastmilk supply.

Coltsfoot is used to treat cough, all kinds of cough. It’s botanical name: Tussilago reflects its medicinal usage, as “tussis” means cough in Latin. (Think of words like “pertussis” and “Robitussin.”) In Chinese Medicine, coltsfoot flowers are called Kuan Dong Hua, and are used similarly to treat cough. In Western botanical medicine both the leaves and flowers are used. Read my article Coltsfoot Cures Cough Naturally for more information.

Finally, take a look at this, can you tell me which it is?

TRICK QUESTION! These are coltsfoot flowers growing among dandelion leaves.

TRICK QUESTION! These are coltsfoot flowers growing among dandelion leaves.

It was a trick question! Look carefully, those are coltsfoot flowers growing among dandelion leaves. If you got it right, you get EXTRA CREDIT!!!

More information:

Coltsfoot Cures Cough Naturally

East and West Dandelion is Best

Rejuvenate Your Liver This Spring With Dandelion

Happy Spring!

~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

Food Under Foot

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April Walk Through Schenley Park

General Posts, Identification
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I took a little walk through the woods of Schenley Park today. Here’s what I saw:

Bunch of Garlic Mustard

Bunch of Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard Getting Ready to Bolt and Flower

Garlic Mustard Getting Ready to Bolt and Flower

Burdock

Burdock

Burdock with Ground Eroded Away, Exposing Taproot

Burdock with Ground Eroded Away, Exposing Taproot

Burdock with Taproot

Baby Burdock with Taproot

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion Leaves

Flowering Dandelion

Flowering Dandelion

Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Row of Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Row of Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Motherwort (medicinal)

Motherwort (medicinal)

Forsythia (medicinal)

Forsythia (medicinal)

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock

Tomorrow I’m going to Frick…I will bring my camera and let you know what I find!

Be sure to join us on our upcoming walks, scheduled for April 19 and May 3 (Morel Hunt + wild walk!)

For more pictures of April wild edibles, including nettles and chickweed, see my April Showers blog post.

Festive Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski

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Wild Edibles Walk at Schenley Oval

General Posts
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Wild Edibles Walk Schenley Park, August, 2014. Photo credit: Jennifer Verala

Wild Edibles Walk Schenley Park, August, 2014. Photo credit: Jennifer Verala

Our first evening wild edibles walk was a great success! Thank you to everyone who came. We took our time walking the one kilometer loop, stopping to discuss nearly 20 edible, medicinal and poisonous plants. We also discussed how to make tinctures, vinegars, oils and salves, how to identify, harvest and use the plants and some of our favorite ways to prepare them to eat.  Our next walks are planned for the end of Sept and into October. The dates haven’t been announced yet but stay tuned!

Some of the plants we discussed this evening included:

  • plantain - both wide leaf plantain (Plantago major) and narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata.) We talked about using plantain as an edible and medicinally, and how to gather the seeds.
  • dandelion
  • burdock - plenty of old burdock with lots of sticky burs, and an abundance of young first year plants whose roots and leaf stalks are great to harvest right now.
  • Pokeberry - This dark poison berry is also abundant now. It can be used as an ink or dye.
  • photo127Oak Tree/Acorn
  • Mulberry Tree
  • Hawthorn berries/haws
  • Motherwort
  • Golden Rod (what people often think they’re allergic to, but the pollen travels by insect, not wind. It is used medicinally to combat allergies.)
  • Ragweed (what people are actually allergic to - this inconspicuous plant with green flowers has wind-born pollen and is what many people with fall allergies are allergic to.)
  • Wild Carrot/Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Dryad’s Saddle Mushroom - usually thought of as a spring mushroom, makes a reappearance again in late summer and fall.
  • Lamb’s Quarters
  • Broad Leaf Dock, leaves and seeds
  • Red Clover
  • White Clover
  • Wood Sorrel

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us tonight, and to Jen Verala for snapping some great photos of the walk! (If anyone else has photos they want to share with me and the Food Under Foot family, send them to Melissa@FoodUnderFoot.com. I will credit you! Dave forgot to take photos.)

Thanks!

Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot

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18 Reasons Not To Be Impatient About Your Garden

General Posts
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Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads

I LOVE this time of year.

I have my garden in…but nothing is up yet. In fact, the tomatoes, peppers, basil and zucchini are still seedlings growing inside, the temperature outside is not consistently warm enough. And of the things I have planted: lettuce, kale, peas, radishes, only the merest of sprouts have come up. But I am not sad or impatient. Here’s why:

The WILD garden is filled with bounty right now! While my garden edibles won’t be ready for at least a month for the earliest things, NATURE is providing me with hardy greens of a variety of flavors, a variety of veggie stalks, and gorgeous gourmet mushrooms! Here are some of the things I’ve been enjoying the past week from Nature’s Garden, which is full of glorious abundance:

  1. Stinging Nettles, Urtica dioica, they’re up and in my smoothies and soups!
  2. nettles

    nettles

  3. Japanese Knotweed Stalks, deliciously tart, great for steaming, juicing and nibbling as a trailside treat
  4. Deadnettles, flowering now, this gorgeous flower is going in the smoothies and stir fries
  5. deadnettles blooming in mid-winter

    deadnettles blooming in mid-winter

  6. Chickweed, love it in salad
  7. Garlic Mustard, flowering already! In salads and pesto
  8. Fiddleheads, use care not to overharvest this springtime delicacy!
  9. Ramps, again, please use care not to overharvest!
  10. ramps

    ramps

  11. Onion Grass, aka Wild Chives/Garlic/Onion, use as you would chives
  12. Burdock Leaf Stalks, boil, steam, stir fry or add to soup
  13. Burdock Roots, juice, use in coleslaw and sour kraut, or stir fry
  14. Dandelion Leaves, bitter yet delicious and great as a liver cleanse
  15. Dandelion Flowers - I have a batch of dandelion wine brewing!
  16. Dandelion Root, dry for tea or dry roast and use as a coffee substitute
  17. Mint, is popping up
  18. Asparagus - If you’ve found a patch of wild asparagus you are in luck right now!
  19. Hairy Bittercress, this was one of the first things up! Tastes a bit like radishes, adds bite to your salad
  20. Morel Mushrooms, depending on where you live these have been up for a week or two or just due to come up. Yum!
  21. morel mushroom

    morel mushroom

  22. Dryad Saddle Mushrooms, if you find these with/instead of morels you’re in for a treat! Young dryads saddles are delightfully delicious.
  23. Dryad's saddle

    Dryad's saddle

I mean, really, who could ask for more?

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The Dandelion-A-Day Project

General Posts
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I am convinced that I can find a dandelion flowering every day of the calender year. Even in my northern climate of Pittsburgh, PA, even when it’s snowing. Last year I challenged myself to find a dandelion in flower every month of the year: that was so easy as to be ridiculous.

Yesterday I was out walking in Frick park, trees mostly bare, landscape brown, and still I found this:

November 20 Dandelion, Frick Park

November 20 Dandelion, Frick Park

And today on the south side trail along the Monongahela river:

November 21 Dandelion, South Side River Trail

November 21 Dandelion, South Side River Trail

And dandelions aren’t the only flowers you’ll find blooming in winter: you’ll see chickweed (Stellaria media) in flower and deadnettles (Lamium purpurea) flowers, even in January and February: they LOVE cold weather and snow does not stop them!

deadnettles blooming in mid-winter

deadnettles blooming in mid-winter

More winter foraging tips to come!!

~ Melissa

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Wild Edibles Abound in Mid-December

General Posts
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It’s mid December in Western Pennsylvania and no snow on the ground. Though it has flurried a couple of times nothing has stuck. It may drop below freezing at night, but during the day it is in the 40s and 50s and there are many wild edibles all around. So many nutritious greens to add to soups and salads!

I took these photos on a walk around the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Brookline. Besides these edibles I’ve seen lots of deadnettles and garlic mustard all around.

Dandelion in bloom mid-December

Dandelion in bloom mid-December

Lots and lots of mallow everywhere

Lots and lots of mallow everywhere

It's hard to get a good photo of the wispy onion grass

It's hard to get a good photo of the wispy onion grass

Deliciously sour and fabulously healthy sorrel...one of the ingredients in the anti-cancer herbal formula Essiac.

Deliciously sour and fabulously healthy sorrel...one of the ingredients in the anti-cancer herbal formula Essiac.

The oyster mushrooms were found with my friend Trish just outside Pittsburgh, in Bellevue. They are delicious! More tomorrow on identifying oyster mushrooms.

Harvesting oyster mushrooms with Trish

Harvesting oyster mushrooms with Trish

Happy harvesting!

~ Melissa

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Week 19: New This week: Hawthorn Berries and Dandelion Greens

CSF Newsletters
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This week’s share includes:

  • Hawthorn berries, or Haws * NEW
  • Dandelion Greens *NEW
  • Staghorn Sumac
  • Lady’s Thumb
  • Quickweed
  • Lambs Quarters

hawthorn berries, or haws

hawthorn berries, or haws

There are a few things about hawthorn berries (haws)

  1. They are delicious, you can eat them raw
  2. Do NOT eat the seeds! They contain cyanide plus a sugar which in your digestive tract combine and can be very toxic
  3. They contain a lot of pectin naturally, so much so that people say you do not need to add pectin when making  jelly (I have not yet been successful at making  jelly of any sort, mainly because I can’t bring myself to add so much sugar, so I am just passing along info)
  4. They are very good for the heart (when considered medicinally.) You can dry the berries (seeds and all) and for later use as a tea (just strain the seeds/hawthorns before drinking, of course.)

Dandelion greens - I can not believe we have not yet included these! But we haven’t, so here they are. They are quite bitter, but they were big and beautiful and irresistible.

You can dry the greens for later use as a tea. The bitterness of the tea is good for digestion, and as always, dandelions are very beneficial for the liver. If you want to eat them fresh, I do have a recipe for you, Taming the Lion.  Basically you toss dandelion greens, walnuts and strawberries with maple syrup or agave (as the dressing.) It is delicious.

Dandelion Greens and Strawberry Salad

Dandelion Greens, Strawberry and Walnut Salad

If you decide to make hawthorn jelly, as I may, instead of using regular water I am going to use staghorn sumac water, which will give the hawthorn berries a much needed tart bite. This is what I did when I cooked the elderberries from last share and it was delicious. You make the sumac water but adding sumac to water and mixing it with a wooden spoon, pressing into the sumac as you do to release the sourness into the water. Then strain this water over the haws and bring to a boil. Boil about half an hour, adding sugar or sweetener. This alone makes a delicious drink. If you add enough sugar you can make jelly.

If, instead of using water altogether (sumac or otherwise) you use vinegar as the base, you can make a shrub. Shrubs are old-timey drinks made by boiling fruit and sugar in vinegar. It is a way to preserve fruit and was drunk medicinally or for pleasure, usually by mixing with soda water/seltzer, water or alcohol. I think I am going to try that with either the haws or some crabapples. I will report back.

Lady’s thumb, quickweed and lambsquarters are greens with different pleasant (not bitter) tastes and textures. Give them a try and see what you might do with them. Salads, soups, or subbing for spinach are all good. You can blanch and freeze extra greens or dry and use them later in the year. Here is an article about the nutritional boost drying greens into your own veggie powder for later use.

Enjoy this week’s share!!!

Love,

Melissa

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Flower Fritters

Recipes
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Before going raw, I made some scrumptious flower fritters with red clover blossoms and dandelion flowers. They were incredibly easy to make. They were inspired by my friend Vanessa who told me she’d made some with dandelion flowers: just mix egg, flour and milk for batter, dip the flowers and fry. Then drizzle with maple syrup.

I used coconut milk and buckwheat flour (to make them gluten-free and dairy-free), fried them in olive oil and voila: pure yumminess!

Red Clover and Dandelion Flower Fritters

Red Clover and Dandelion Flower Fritters

Recipe: Flower Fritters

Batter

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (you can use any milk)
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour (you can use any flour)

Mix ingredients together.

You’ll also need:

  • red clover blossoms
  • dandelion flowers (you can do one or the other or both)
  • olive oil
  • maple syrup

Dip flowers into batter, covering the flower with batter.

In a small pan (or pot) with olive oil, drop battered flowers. Flip when browned (this only takes a couple minutes.)

Remove onto cloth or paper towels to drain excess oil.

Serve drizzled with maple syrup.

Enjoy and Happy Mother’s Day!

~ Melissa

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