The wild and common Dandelion
I hate this time of the year.. Mid February the weather is cold and the fishing is not good, the days are still short and wild foods are not readily available. However there is one little and very common plant that persists though the cold weather and is readily available for those who crave wild foods.
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The Dandelion is a resilient weed and a bane to most gardeners, but once you start to see it as a useful wild food plant you don’t just start to enjoy the fresh young shoots you start to welcome them!
The Dandelion is very very common. Its season is February to November (its most common in late spring) but can also be found in December in January as long as the frosts have not been too regular or too cold. This common wild green is found in grasslands, wastelands and lawns. The Dandelion is readily used by the French and Italians in their cuisine and is even cultivated for just this reason.
The Dandelion is probably one of the first wild plants that you learn to identify as a child, I remember my sister picking up the seed heads and setting the ‘little fairies’ go on the wind. A much better use for the plant is to pick and eat it, they can be delicious and used in many ways!
The jagged or as I have heard them described ‘deep toothed’ leaves are instantly recognisable and the tall yellow flowers that eventually turn into the fluffy seed heads. Uncommonly the Dandelion has a milky sap, I say uncommonly because most plants with a milky sap are poisonous.
The Dandelion is made up of many parts most of which can be eaten.
The Roots: The roots are also edible and can be washed (do not peel) roasted and ground to make a caffeine free coffee alternative. If you find a good crop of large roots they can also be roasted like small thin parsnips – delicious but you will need a good few plants to make it worth it! (Keep an eye on your cooking time they don’t take long!)
The Flowers and Buds: The most obvious part of the plant is the flowers the petals can be used to add colour to a salad (I pull the petals off and toss them through a salad or you can use them as a garnish), alternatively you can use the whole flower head, dip it in a nice light batter and deep fry the flower heads as a brilliant snack or starter – these go brilliantly with a hot chilli sauce or strangely a good home made tartare sauce. The buds can be used in a similar way to the flowers or picked when they are still tight and brined and used as an alternative to capers.
If you are a gardener the dandelion can be easily cultivated and to tell you the truth is probably already very common in your garden. To make the best of it pull the leaves up in a plastic pipe. The leaves try to grow up the pipe and grow longer and more tender, if the pipe excludes light (except through the top) the leaves will also be less bitter.
If you are just starting out with gathering wild food, fancy a lazy day of gathering and can’t be bothered to look too far or simply fancy a different salad leaf for a change, the common and Wild Dandelion is for you!
Bookmark this page or join as a friend as through the year I will be publishing many tasty Dandelion recipes.
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