Binomial name: Hypochaeris glabra
Common name : Catsears, flatweed, false dandelion
catsear name because the tip of the leaf is a bit like the feline ear
Catsears is also called flatweed - indicating it's growth habit. The rosette is about 500mm diameter. There is a tap root but it pulls out readily. It has long narrow leaves 200-250mm x 50mmwide ,with smooth or wavy margins and rounded end (compared to dandelion which is much more irregular) It is way more common than dandelion, as well, here. One variety is hairy, another is smooth. The leaves on the variety I have, feel bumpy to touch and have sparse fine hairs along the leaf margin and the midrib, this indicates that they are H. glabra. The flower stem is 700mm long , hollow and hard to break. About half way up it branches 4 or 5 times and bears a dandelion type flower.
This plant has probably been eaten by humans for a longtime and is eaten in the Mediterranean area today, especially in Sicily and Crete, where it is seasoned with oil and fried with garlic and other ingredients. The pollen is an important food source for bees although it is somewhat deficient in certain amino acids.
Nothing much definite - John Kallis (ref below) reports that it probably contains high levels of Calcium, Phosphorus, and Copper. The flowers contain lutein and carotenoids. The leaves also would have carotenoids and polyphenols with high antioxidant activity. The phosphorus report is a little surprising as elsewhere on the net I found a report that it tends to grow on low phosphorus and potash soils.
What parts to eat:
Cut young leaves with a pair of scissors - a little sap exudes that discolors the end - trim this off before cooking. Blanch to remove any bitterness and treat as a spinach substitute . The young flower stalks and flowers are edible as well although we have not tried them. Similarly the tap root can be dried,ground and used as a coffee substitute. Once again we have not done this either.
Pubmed search :
Catsears is associated with a disorder in horses called stringhalt. Horses affected by it have evidence of nerve damage in the hind legs. However the quantities eaten by a horse would of course be way more than humans would eat, but nonetheless it is a consideration, I guess. Otherwise not much else found.
Another of the edible weeds - there are some gaps in knowledge, but I think it is safe enough to eat on a regular basis. We find the taste a bit bitter with some aftertaste, whereas Tim Low and John Kallis, in the reference books I use
report that it is tasty and palatable - we need to experiment more with harvesting this plant and be more selective of very young leaves.
Kallis , J Edible Wild Plants Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate Gibbs Smith 2010
Low ,Tim Wild Herbs of Australia and New Zealand revised ed Angus and Robertson 1991
Multiple web sites and Pubmed