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……….

FORAGING

So for a few years now i,ve been getting more and more interesting in foraging for wild food and this year has been no exception. From my teenage years through to my early thirties i was quite heavily into rough shooting both with shotgun and airgun, and at the same time i was also doing a lot of sea fishing from both shore and boat. Now a big part of both these pastimes/hobbies/obsessions was being able to eat what i had shot or caught and i thoroughly enjoyed setting out for the day with my mind set to return home later with my dinner. I’ve shot and eaten most of our legal game during this time, liked some, felt indifferent to others and hated many, but all were taken for consumption not just for fun, i never killed more than i, or my friends or family, could eat and nothing went to waste. The same went for any fish i caught, they were taken for the pot to be eaten or were returned to live another day. Now this, in my mind anyway, is a form of foraging, taking a small amount of natures bounty to fill my, ever growing as i get older, stomach, as much as searching for mushrooms and hedgerow gleaning. Nowadays i don’t shoot anymore, i do enjoy the odd wood pigeon or duck given to me by my Dad though, but i do still go fishing but unfortunately for some reason i now can’t stomach the taste of fish, so my better half gets whatever i catch, and much appreciative she is too, or i just admire the species of fish i have landed and slip it back to its watery home with nod and a thank you. Anyway, back to the point i was getting too and that was my interest in foraging wild food has increased lately and i,ve actually been active in hunting out something wild for my table.

It started of with the humble blackberry, i was on a quite a long walk with the boys and had run out of water and was feeling a little parched in the evening sun. Walking past a big bramble bush i spied some juicy looking fruits so picked a few and they certainly hit the spot. After that, for the next few weeks, i became a black berry picking monster spending a good bit of my dog walking time picking the little lovelies and thenturning them into crumbles and such.

Then, whilst in France carp fishing, i noticed a few sweet chestnut trees on the opposite bank so thought it would be rude not to pop over and harvest a few of its delicious bounty. Chucked on the bbq later that night, after my steak dinner, they tasted lovely as a little snack whilst i sipped a cold cider and watched the sun go down.

Also in France i found a few Cepes whilst having a little wander around the grounds of the fishery. A quick check with the owner to see if it was ok for me to pick a few, Cepes are a valuable commodity in France, and later that night i had a lovely side of mushrooms to go with yet another t-bone steak. On returning home those mushrooms have been forefront of my mind for some reason and i,ve been on the search for some of its edible cousins, although i,m still pretty wary of picking and eating fungi as i don’t fancy getting ill, and also been taking some cracking photographs of various ‘shrooms’. I did find a good crop of Horse Mushrooms on a recent dog walk so picked a few and had them with scrambled for my lunch, no more than two hours from being picked. They had a very strong mushroomy taste and i have to say that i couldn,t eat them all as i started to worry if they were actually an edible variety, they were, i double checked the ID, but i was just being a coward.

Finding and eating the above has got me more interested in wild food than i ever have been before, and i now find my spare time is taken up with either reading about foraging online or watching it on Youtube. Its a fascinating pastime, one i hope to learn a lot more about and i will definately be blogging more about it in the near future.

Follow me on Youtube at “BRYANS COUNTRYSIDE CAPERS’. And also on Instagram at ‘BRYANS COUNTRYSIDE CAPERS’.