Sunday, December 19, 2010

Food: Coltsfoot

Petasites spp. (a.k.a. Tussilago spp.)

Description: This perennial herb rises from a thick creeping rhizome, with large basal leaves. The flower stalk grows up to 30 cm tall in early spring, fruiting and dying usually before the leaves show. The flowers are purple, white or yellow, the stem reddish. The leaves are from thumb size to 30 cm.

Habitat & Distribution: Coltsfoot can be found on stream banks, in swamps and wet tundra. It ranges from Alaska to Washington and into Alberta.

Edible parts and other uses: The young flowering stem is a tasty spring vegetable, steamed, or stir fried. The young leaves are also edible. The rootstock may be roasted and then eaten.

The most common use for this herb is cough suppression. It is applied to cases of whooping cough, asthma, bronchial congestion and shortness of breath. It was used (in the form of a smudge) by many Natives to cure problems caused by smoking too much. It has also been used for menstrual cramps.

Externally, a decoction or poultice can be made to alleviate the discomfort of sores, insect bites and arthritic pain.


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