~ Cat’s Ear / Flatweed ~ (Hypochoeris radicata)
I've always thought of Cat's Ear as a 'Summer' weed, as that's when you see it popping out of all the cracks in your driveway, thriving in the dry heat. So I was delighted to find this super luscious, healthy looking patch during a forage last week.
If you know your Cat’s Ear / False Dandelion / Flatweed, you'll probably never go hungry in your life. That’s because this invasive 'weed', hailing from Morocco, now inhabits every continent on the planet except Antartica. It’s been described as "one of, if not the most widely distributed introduced weeds" (in NZ, Healy).
Flatweed is notorious for taking over lawns, as it prefers compacted soil & tolerates poor soils & draughts. In fact it's growing all through the cracks in my driveway & courtyard with barely any soil at all - and thriving.
It's pretty incredible, as it has managed to coevolve with humans, or should I say lawnmowers. It’s adapted from growing upright, with leaves & stems reaching towards the sun, to growing ‘flat’ to avoid the lawnmower blades (hence the name flatweed). I was checking out some flatweed in very poor, compacted soil in an old pathway in my garden. It was fasicnating to note that even here where a lawnmower has never passed the catsear grows flat to the ground and even the flower stalks are bent over as if to avoid a lanmower. Plants are AMAZINGLY intelligent.
Use the fresh leaves in salad (which are bitter tasting), cooked in soups & stews or sauteed in stirfries & egg dishes (cooking diminishes the bitterness).
Dig the roots for a coffee substitue.
In Nilgiri, India, Cat’s Ear is used by traditional healers to treat inflammation, infectious diseases, cancer & for wound healing.
Hypochoeris radicata is known to be High in Vitamin C, with high antioxidant & antimcrobial properties.
Once you have your Dandelion I.D. sussed, you’ll find it easy to I.D. this one - the main difference being that it grows flat and is fuzzy all over, with multiple little yellow flowers on each stem.
(Dandelion ID is covered comprehensively in my Hot Season Foraging Guide) & in my Online Foraging Course.