Dandy Food for Free
Walltown Quarry is a great site with woodlands, meadows, ponds and fantastic views. It is also a great spot for gathering wild plants like dandelions to eat. This Sunday, Linus from Northern Wilds was due to lead a Foraging walk at Walltown. As we don’t have Linus on hand to guide us through the wide array of spring shoots, leaves and flowers that we can put on our table, I decided to share a recipe which has ingredients right on our doorsteps. Hopefully it will bring a little spring sunshine to your kitchen. Linus has shared some top tips along the way to help too.
The not so weedy Dandelion
You may remember back at the end of April, Mandy championed the Dandelion in her blog celebrating National Gardening Week. The Dandelion is a great source of early nectar for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies; it is a particular favourite of the Red-tailed Bumblebee, which apparently prefers yellow flowers. It has the ability to spread quickly in any nook, cranny and spare bit of soil, the clock like seed head catching the wind and its fluffy seeds floating to find a new home.
Northern Wilds – Five Fantastic Facts about the Dandelion
- The Dandelion flower opens up in the morning and closes in the evening to go to sleep
- The root can be used to make a bitter drink similar to coffee.
- You can not only make your own Rubber Band from Dandelions but Continental Tyres produced a bike tyre made from Dandelions, which were used in the Tour de France last year.
- The leaves can be added to salads to provide a pleasantly bitter flavour a bit like radicchio.
- The root can be used to make Cocktail bitters
Every part of the Dandelion can be used including the flower, for infusing oils and vinegars, to making a salve to help with sore muscles and rough chapped skin and…
Whilst keeping in touch with my friends and family during lockdown I noticed that a few of them had been making various jams and jellies from delicious weeds they had collected whilst getting their daily exercise. I decided to join in and have a go at some Dandelion Honey, the result is incredibly honey-like in both texture and taste so I thought you might like to have a go – let us know what you think.
I made sure to go out during the day so that the heads were open and on display.
Northern Wilds’ Top Tips:
- Linus suggests picking the flowers in the shade rather than in full sunlight, as the ones growing in the shade are much sweeter.
- Cricket and football pitches provide a good source of Dandelions and these areas tend to be a dog free zone.
- Leave the bag of Dandelions outside to let those creatures having a feed fly or scurry off
- Pick the higher up Dandelions as they’ll have less contamination from the roadside or dogs etc.
- Use Scissors to clip the petals away from the stalk – this will release all the small individual petals.
I planned my route so as to avoid popular dog walking routes – you don’t want any flower heads that have been visited by dogs! Dandelions are everywhere at the moment so it didn’t take me long to gather a small bag full. Just make sure to leave plenty for the insects. I used this website for guidance:
- 1x cup of densely packed fresh dandelion flower heads
- 2x slices of lemon
- 1.5 cups of Water
- Approximately 1.5 cups of Sugar
1) Wash and drain the flowers and remove any remaining bugs
2) Place the water, sliced lemons and Dandelion flowers in a medium sized pan
3) Simmer the Dandelion mixture with the lid on for 15 minutes
4) Leave the mixture to cool and infuse overnight
5) The next day, strain out the flowers and lemon either using a strainer or I used a muslin bag that we usually use for Jam. Make sure to squeeze the mixture to get as much of the juice out.
6) Weigh the Dandelion Tea you now have and weigh out an equal amount of sugar.
7) Put the liquid back in the pan on the stove and add the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring it to a gentle boil for approximately 15 minutes – I found this took a little longer as I used double the recipe.
8) Have a cold clean plate to hand and keep checking the consistency of the honey, I kept dropping a little on the plate then when it had cooled ran my finger through it to check how thick it was – it has turned out like runny honey.
9) Pour into clean sterilised Jars
10) Enjoy on your pancakes, toast or in your Tea.
What can you do Now?
Why not help the Bees, Butterflies, Moths and other Pollinators whilst cultivating your own patch of weeds to eat. As part of their Every Flower Counts Citizen Science project, Plantlife are running the #NoMowMay. Let’s face it we all need an excuse not to mow the lawn and you can even chat to your neighbours about it get them to join in too. So let’s provide a Nectar sweet shop for those insects and let the garden grow #SayNoMow.
We plan to have some more workshops and foraging events led by Northern Wilds in our events programme, whether it’s Mushroom foraging in the Autumn or some more Kimchi sessions in the Spring. Keep your eye on our website and social media updates. Take Care everyone.