From Wetlands, The Audubon Society Nature Guides, 1985

A Recipe for Wild Cowslips

by Linda Pascatore

© 1994 The Gobbler: Spring Flower


We are especially fond of recipes for wild plants found naturally occurring in the woods and fields of our area. One of our favorite wild foods is cowslips. Cowslips, also called marsh marigolds, are part of the buttercup family. Their official name is Caltha palustris. They are one of the first flowers of spring, and are common in low, marshy areas around here.

The flowers are yellow with five petals, which fall off and leave a round pod with seeds. These flowers are from 1 to 1.5 inches across. The plant's leaves are heart-shaped and can grow to 6 inches. They have thick stems which are one to two feet high. The leaves should be harvested in late April or May either before or just after they blossom, as they get a little bitter later.

In New England, cowslips are cooked as traditional spring greens. They are high in iron, and were used as a tonic for anemia. They also have a high content of vitamins A and C. However, they do contain a poison called Hellebroin, which is destroyed by cooking.

Cowslips must be cooked, and never eaten raw!

Cowslips are often eaten plain. To prepare cowslips as simple greens, boil the leaves in salted water for 5 minutes. Pour off this first water, add freshly boiling water and boil for another 8 minutes. Serve with butter or vinegar. If you are looking for something fancier, try the recipe below. Source material contributed by Craig Weston
Creamed Cowslips


2 pounds young Cowslip leaves

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

pinch nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon flour

1/2 cup cream

Wash and trim the Cowslip leaves. Boil for 3 minutes; drain. Rinse in cold water, drain well and chop fine. In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the chopped cowslip leaves and cook over a fairly high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, sugar and flour. Blend well. Return the skillet to the fire and cook for 2 minutes over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove skillet from heat; blend in the cream. Return skillet to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Reprinted in part from The Weed Cookbook, by Adrienne Crowhurst, 1972, Lancer Books.