This time of year is almost as good as Autumn for foraging. Both March and April are full of enough bright and sunny days that you could almost think summer has decided to come early (certainly, temperatures in the 20’s are warm any time of the year here in the UK) – where it not for the buds on most of the trees instead of leaves. In some ways, spring is even more beautiful – the lines of white flowered blackthorn bushes in most hedgerows ensures that.
We’ve not foraged for dandelions before but decided to give it a go this year and I’m sure I don’t have to explain to anybody what they look like or where to find them. Every child knows how to tell the time using “dandelion clocks”, and most people are familiar with the story that dandelions can make you wee the bed (they are after all known in French as “pis-en-lit” – “*** the bed” for the rest of us). And who hasn’t drank Dandelion and Burdock?
5 Culinary Uses for Dandelions
- Dandelion Salad. All parts of the dandelion are edible, so why not make a salad of the young leaves (the older ones are too bitter) mixed with other salad leaves of your choice, and throw in a few flower heads for visual impact.
- Dandelion Coffee. The roots of the dandelion look like small parsnips and can be washed, dried, roasted and ground just like coffee beans. The drink is well known as a diuretic. For the recipe head over to the fantastic Eat Weeds blog.
- Dandelion & Burdock. This is a well known English drink and one I remember from my childhood. It is black and looks like cola, but has a unique taste all of its own. There’s a recipe for an alcoholic version by the great Andy Hamilton here.
- Dandelion Pesto. A pesto is a great way to use up any greens; rocket, wild garlic, nettles, etc. Simply whizz up a couple of handfuls of washed leaves with a couple of cloves of garlic, about 50g toasted pine nuts and the same weight of Parmesan. Drizzle extra virgin rapeseed oil in while blending to get the right consistency (I go for a runnier one if I’m serving it on fish, and might skip the Parmesan).
- Dandelion Soup. Starting with a basic vegetable stock made from onion, carrot and celery, add approximately 4 handfuls dandelion leaves and cook for 10 minutes or so. Finally puree and stir in a little double cream. This is a delicious way to savour the fresh, bitter taste of dandelions.