Foraging for Cat’s Ear

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Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata) is a common, perennial weed you’ll find in gardens and lawns, along with dandelion. The funny thing about Cat’s Ear is at first glance, it looks just like dandelion especially when in bloom. But, upon closer inspection, the leaves are fuzzy and lack the pointy teeth on the leaves. There also are several flowers per flower stalk on Cat’s Ear, but only one flower per flower stalk on a dandelion.

Once you get the hang of it, identifying Cat’s Ear is quite easy.

Luckily, they both are edible and both have a similar, bitter flavor. You can use the leaves in similar ways, though I really don’t like them in salads. Fuzzy leaves in a salad? That’s pushing things a little far in my book.

Nonetheless, it’s always nice to know what things you can eat in case there’s a grocery store run during a pandemic or before a disaster or if we’re actually in a real disaster. Plus it has some valuable medicinal properties.

Identification

Leaves: Fuzzy, rounded teeth. Basal leaves

Stem: Produces milk when broken.

Flower: Pale yellow with 20 to 30 rays. Green bracts at the base. Blooms spring to early fall.

Seeds: Similar to dandelion.

Habitat: Fields, gardens, lawns.

Edible Uses

Cat’s ear can be eaten, though it is quite bitter. It does have lot of vitamins and health benefits, however.

You can eat it raw or cooked.

Sautéing it lightly in olive oil or boiling it can help with the bitterness, as well as adding it into other dishes. Sprinkling some finely chopped cat’s ear into a wild salad with some sour greens like yellow wood sorrel and some crunchy greens, like purslane, and then some more neutral flavored greens, such as chickweed and violet, can make a delicious balanced and healthy salad. You can add it to chickweed pesto, just adding about 10% of cat’s ear.

The flower stalks and flower buds can be picked and sautéed like asparagus. Using avocado oil can help beat the bitterness.

The flowers can be used to flavor dishes, actually, or added to sautéed greens.

In Greece and Crete, the leaves are apparently commonly eaten raw.

The flowers also can be added with other flowers (such as dandelion) or used solo to make wine.

The roots can be ground and roasted and used to make a coffee-like tea that can help improve your digestion.

Nutritional Benefits

Cat’s ear is high in antioxidants. It’s high in potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. It’s very high in iron.

Medicinal

Cat’s Ear leaves and Cat’s Ear oil can be used to terat liver infections and bile related problems.

Since it is a diuretic, it can be used for relieve kidney problems.

It is a detoxifier and may help prevent or control cancer (please work with a qualified oncologist on this!)

It can help with urinary tract infections in women.

It can reduce inflammation.

It can help treat a weak stomach, cirrhosis, gall stones, gall bladder problems, jaundice, rheumatism, dyspepsia, constipation, and hypoglycemia.

Warnings

Some people may be allergic to the flowers especially when eaten raw.

The leaves can cause skin irritations to people with sensitive skin.

Many people are low in potassium, but if you have too much in your body due to kidney disease, cat’s ear has a lot and overwhelm the body with it, causing hyperkalemia.

Dandelion, Cat’s Ear, and Colt’s Foot:

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