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I saw my first coltsfoot in bloom this week. Though it looks a little like a dandelion, coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is actually a member of the sunflower family. It is favoured by herbalists as its leaves and flowers apparently make an effective cough remedy – the scientific name tussilago comes from the Latin tussis, which means cough, and ago, which means to act on. However, coltsfoot has been found to cause problems with the liver so long-term constant use is probably not wise.

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This is another wildflower with a multitude of common names including, not surprisingly, coughwort, but also tash plant, ass’s foot, bull’s foot, foal’s foot, foalswort, and horse foot. Apparently, all those references to ‘foot’ result from the fact that the leaves are a similar shape to animal hooves, though I haven’t yet seen the leaves myself – they don’t appear until the flower has set its seed.

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In Britain, there is also a confection called Coltsfoot Rock, made exclusively by Stockley’s Sweets, in Oswaldtwistle, in Lancashire. Though its exact recipe is secret, this rock candy is flavoured using the leaves of coltsfoot. I wonder if any of my readers can tell us what it tastes like.

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