Horsetail — the wild edible

Different stages of horsetails.
The medicinal plant that dates back millions of years when dinosaurs still existed.

Horsetail is a perennial plant and an invasive species that originated from temperate regions. This plant produces two types of young shoots: fertile and vegetative shoots. Every year, starting in early spring, this wild edible will appear in many watery areas.

Fertile shoots of the field horsetails.

The fertile shoots have brownish colour and appear asparagus like. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Each node of the shoots contains water; it is juicy and with almost no taste when eaten raw. However, after giving them a quick fry with some oil and garlic, these young shoots resemble the taste of the Asian dried daylily, which have a crunchy, slightly sweet and savoury aftertaste (recipe is below). I personally prefer cooked young shoots.

A big patch of vegetative shoots (on the left). The confiler-like foliages started to grow from the stem (on the right).

Vegetative shoots emerge after fertile shoots, and usually are good from spring to early summer. They have bright green conifer-like foliage growing around the stems. People consider vegetative shoots as a tonic rather than food due to the rich content of silica, diuretic, and minerals in them. It is said to improve hair, nails, bones, bladder, and kidneys. They can be dried and stored as tea leaves.

When gathering vegetative shoots, try to look for the green tops that are bright green with upward foliages. These green tops can be dried to make beneficial tea. It tastes somewhat similar to Japanese green tea (recipe below). However, the green stalk and rihizom should be avoid for consumption since the enzymes inside can destroy Vitamin B1 and thiamine. Also, long-term alcohol users, people who are Vitamin B deficient, pregnant or nursing women should avoid using horsetail. Personally, I drink horsetail tea only one or two times a week as a treat (it is really delicious) while trying to get the medical benefit from it, but I will not recommend to drink it more than that.

A colony of scouring rush besides a stream. It belongs to horsetail family.

Scouring rush belongs to the horsetail family. It also has no leaves and no flowers. In early spring, this plant will produce young shoots that bear lots of spores to reproduce. Because of the roughness of this plant, people in the old time used it to polish their pots. I haven’t yet tried this method myself, but I am planning to do it this summer when I go camping.

Stir fry Field Horsetail Shoots

(Ingredients):

A handful of Field Horsetail fertile shoots

2 cloves Garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil

Salt to taste

(How to make):

  1. Peel off and discard the black papery rings around the stems. Rinse the shoots a few times to remove the sand and dirt.
  2. Heat up the oil over medium high heat. Add garlic. Fry it until slightly brown. Add the shoots. Continuously fry them until they are fragrant; about two minutes.

I tried them as a warm side dish or cold appetizer. Both were tasty.

Field Horsetail Tea

(Ingredients):

Horsetail Green Tops

Hot Water

(How to make):

  1. Carefully rinse the horsetail in water to remove the sand and dirt (they are quite dirty).
  2. To dry the leaves, roughly cut them into 1–2 cm long. Place them on parchment paper evenly. Roast them in the oven at 220F until they are totally dried and be crumbled into pieces easily. Store the leaves in a air-tight container.
  3. To make the tea, bring a cup of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of tea leaves in a cup, then pour the hot water over it. Let it steep for about 5–8 minutes. Enjoy.
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