DANDELIONS

DANDELIONS

Dandelions or ‘Wet The Beds’, as we used to call them when i was kid, are an abundant little flowering plant that grows literally wherever it likes. With a beautiful, bright yellow flowerhead and an intricate seed head, ‘clock’, which once picked and blown upon releases dozens of parachute type seeds which float on the tiniest of breezes before settling and propagating, these plants can grow quickly and cover large areas of grassland in most places around the UK. This bright little flowering plant provides food for butterflies, moths and bees, via its nectar, as well as some species of birds which feed on its seeds. Its hated by gardeners for its evasive growth rate and difficulty in eradicating but is loved by wild food foragers for its leaves and flowerhead for its taste and medicinal properties.

GROUP OF DANDELIONS

CULINARY DELIGHTS

Dandelions can be eaten practically from flower to root. The flowers can be eaten raw as they are apparently sweet with a crunchy texture, or they can be deep fried, tempura style, or can be used to make dandelion syrup and added to honey. It can also be used to make drinks, like the dandelion and burdock we used to drink gallons of when young, and also fermented to make wine. The leaves can be used in salads, although the larger leaves have a slight bitterness to them the younger smaller leaves are better. You can also steam the leaves and eat like spinach as well use in soups. The roots can dried and roasted and used as a coffee substitute or they can be just used like any other root vegetable. I’ve not experimented properly with eating dandelions really, just a nibble here and there, but i do plan on doing so soon.

DANDELION SEEDHEAD ‘CLOCK’

You can harvest dandelions all year round but there are a few people who believe that it is best to leave them alone during the beginning of spring as they form an essential part of a bees diet as they awaken from their winter snooze.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Apparently the Dandelion contains beta-carotene and polyphenols which are antioxidants, they can also help reduce cholesterol and help regulate blood sugars. Theres research studies which indicate it can also help reduce inflammation, help lower blood pressure, aid weight loss and boost the immune system. The main medicinal uses of dandelion that i have heard of, through the foragers and wild food experts that i know, is that its good for the complexion by reducing the risk of uv damage caused by the sun and that it helps with aiding digestion and shifting constipation. Personally i,ve not used the plant for any of the above so i write only from hearsay and information i,ve gleaned through research.

DANDELION FLOWER

So next time you tug a dandelion out of the cracks in your paving or cut a patch down with the lawn mower, spare a little thought as to whether its really doing any harm. It could be a fly-in takeaway for a passing bee or maybe you could have a nibble and help shift that pizza, that’s bloating you out, through your system a bit quicker……….

HOLLY BLUE

HOLLY BLUE BUTTERFLY

I spent a while chasing this little beauty around the garden trying to take its picture a couple of days ago. Every time it settled and i got my camera down close to it, it would flutter up and and a couple feet away. Finally i managed to get a few shots off and i think this is the best one.

Apparently the Holly Blues are quite common, living mainly around holly bushes, oddly enough, but i think this is the first time i,ve actually seen one. I reckon he’d fluttered in from the garden behind mine as they have recently chopped their big old holly tree down, which i,m not too happy about as a lot of the local songbirds used to sit in that tree, but what could i do!!!

GOT OFF LIGHTLY

SOOOOO, earlier in the year there was a week which produced exceptionally higher than usual tides, coupled with these high tides were very strong/storm winds which in turn made the tides even higher. This caused flooding around the country and also caused the roadway to flood on Wallasea Island when i was out walking the dogs one day. It didn’t actually cross my mind to check the tide heights before venturing out which nearly cost me my van. Fortunately i got back to the van before the water could get any higher than just above the bottom of the bumpers. My mistake and i got of lightly with just wet feet where i had to wade through the flooded road.

Heres a short video i took of the water as i returned to the van.

NEARLY LOST MY VAN TO THE RIVER

BUTTERCUP BUTTERCUP

As children we used to pick a buttercup and hold it under each others chins to see if we liked butter, if a yellow glow appeared then it was said that you were indeed fond of butter. In reality every chin the little flowers were thrust under glowed yellow as the intense yellow of the pigments shine bright to attract insects which home in on the little yellow beacons and aid their pollination.

BUTTERCUP

Buttercups are a member of the Ranunculus family. The bright yellow colour of a buttercup comes from the yellow pigments that are in the surface layer of the petals. The shiny, glossy look is caused by layers of air just beneath the surface which reflect the sunlight like a mirror.

May is a good time of year to find large quantities of these bright little flowers as it grows well when the sun is high and warm. On colder days the flowers can turn to follow the sun with the flowers being dish shape to collect energy from the sun which warms up the flower which in turn helps to attract more insects. The dish shape also focuses the light to the centre of the flower to help with the ripening of its pollen.

One of the fields i walked through today was carpeted in these gorgeous little flowers and i thought it only fitting that i did a little research and give them a dedicated page. Having looked into these plants online the fact about them facing the sun to gain warmth from the sunlight made me think to the positioning of the flowers i walked through, and they were all in parts of the field that had sunlight for best part of, if not all of, the day.

WATCH OUT WATCH OUT THERES A CATERPILLAR ABOUT

Last year here in Essex, and over a lot of the UK, there was a plague of horrid little hairy brown caterpillars which were causing some pretty bad problems with those who unsuspectingly came in contact with them. The troublesome little bleeders were the larvae of the Brown-tail moth and can cause havoc if you came in contact with them, by causing itchy rashes, sore throats and eye irritation especially to those who suffer from allergic reactions.

BROWN TAIL MOTH LARVAE/CATERPILLAR

The larvae are small brown hairy critters which once touch easily dislodge their hairs which then can attach to the small pores in our skin and then cause an allergic reaction which can range from a mild itch to a strong burning sensation and even bring on an asthma attack to those who suffer.

BROWN TAIL MOTH LARVAE NEST

They make cotton wool type ‘nests’ in hedgerow trees such as blackthorn and hawthorn as well as on scrub type plants such as bramble. These nests can hold multitudes of the wriggly little buggers and if you carefully, without coming in contact with them, watch you can see different size caterpillars within as well as larger specimens outside the nest area. I find them quite creepy to watch as they make my skin crawl.

BROWN TAIL MOTH

I found the nest above a couple of days ago whilst walking the dogs at a local country park, CHERRY ORCHARD JUBILEE PARK, so thought i,d write this little piece to inform those who havn,t come across them before. Admire them from a distance but definitely don’t go touching them.

Stay safe everyone……………………