The bright yellow flowers of the coltsfoot plant are unusual in that they appear above ground as early as March, well before the leaves of the plant emerge. We’ve been on the lookout for them all this month. At first we were only collecting a handful of flowers here and there, but then we found a field completely covered in them:
At our recent foraging walk and banquet, Tommy incorporated them into a wonderful pickled seafood salad. The flowers and their stems taste of melon, sometimes of mint – it’s a very unique and refreshing flavour, and one that worked really well with the seafood.
As well as their flavour, another desirable quality of these flowers is their relatively firm texture. Their densely packed petals and chunky stems will retain some bite, even after cooking. This makes coltsfoot a good candidate for pickling. Whereas some plants will start to disintegrate in the pickling solution, coltsfoot don’t, which is fortunate because our coltsfoot patch has far too many flowers to use fresh.
So we set to work pickling industrial numbers of coltsfoot flowers. We’d experimented with pickling them before and it had worked well, but we took this opportunity to fine tune the recipe. The previous pickling solution had been quite heavy on the aromatics, slightly masking the coltsfoot’s flavour. The flowers also tasted very vinegary. So this time we toned down the flavourings, and decided that after pickling the flowers we’d store them in oil rather than leaving them in the vinegar.
One nice surprise in the pickling process is that the yellow flowers with green stems turn a deep purply red as soon as you add them to the hot pickling solution. Here they are, transforming:
Pretty, right? After a morning of intensive picking and pickling, we amassed enough to fill three very large jars with flowers. In oil, these will keep for months – allowing our chefs to create exciting dishes with coltsfoot long after the flowers have disappeared from our fields.