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Horsetail is a reed-like plant that typically grows .6 meters tall with hollow fluted stems and feathery branches. It propagates itself in large colonies by way of creeping rhizomes that are incredibly resilient, categorizing it as an invasive weed in some areas. In early spring Horsetail exhibits small brown shoots with a whorled cone at the top, which contains spores. At maturity the cones release their spores and the plant turns an army green. The young edible brown shoots have a flavor similar to asparagus. When foraging always be sure that the specimens are collected from a clean water source and unpolluted surrounding environment.
In the wild, Horsetail is available in the spring.
Horsetail is botanically classified as Equisetum arvense, but may also be commonly referred to as Bottlebrush, Foxtail, Pinetop, Jointed Rush, Horse Pipe, Mare's Tail or Snake Grass. It is an ancient plant whose massive Paleozoic ancestors predate human existence. The smaller, present day species is a multipurpose wild edible with both medicinal and culinary applications. It offers edible tan-colored fertile shoots early in the season, and then inedible green stalks that appear later providing medicinal qualities. Its rich silica content has also been implemented as a natural sandpaper.
Horsetail is excellent for treating osteoporosis. It has a high silica content, which helps the body fix calcium, a necessary process for repairing bones, collagen and other body tissues. It should also be noted that it contains thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys vitamin B1 stores in the body, and should therefore be used in moderation.
The first young shoots of Horsetail may be prepared as an asparagus substitute. They should be pinched off close to the ground and then cleaned of the brown papery sheath that surrounds each node. The tender growth between the nodes is traditionally eaten fresh dipped in oil, but it may also be cut up and added to soups or sautés. Foraged Horsetail compliments butter, olive oil, lemon, hard cheeses, egg dishes, nuts, and mushrooms, especially morels.
Young Horsetail shoots were a delicacy for the Coast Salish People of the Pacific Northwest. In the second century AD, the Roman physician and philosopher Galen used Horsetail to aid arthritis, kidney and bladder problems. The Chinese use it to cool fevers and as a remedy for eye inflammations such as conjunctivitis and corneal disorders, dysentery, flu, swellings and hemorrhoids.
Horsetail is a descendant of giant prehistoric plants that grew millions of years ago in massive Horsetail forests that reached heights of 30 meters. Today it is mostly a wetland species, but may also occur in the drier habitats of woodlands, fields, meadows, disturbed areas, roadsides and railway embankments. It tolerates light frost, but will die with prolonged exposure to below freezing temperatures.
Recipes that include Horsetail. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Venusian Glow||Horsetail Skin & Nails Cocktail|
|Star Chefs||Kakure Ume (Red Sea Bream Milt, Ume, and Horsetail Shoots)|
|Squamish Valley Farm||Hi Fidelity Fiddle Heads and Horse Tail|