This week’s foraged goodness is a real little ray of sunshine and is probably blazing its way across your lawns right now – the dandelion. If you missed last week’s instalment on Hairy Bittercress, you can find it here.
Dandelions are so abundant and persistent at this time of year that people spend hours trying to eliminate them – a quick google search tells me that we’re spraying, digging, salting, smothering, even torching (really?!) this gardeners blight – when what we should be doing is enjoying their deliciousness.
The dandelion ‘weed’ can be found just about anywhere grass grows and can be harvested at any point during their cycle, though the leaves do get tougher as they age. Just make sure the land you’re foraging is chemical free (no roadsides!) and you really can’t go wrong. I sent my children over the garden fence to gather ours, they spent a happy home-ed morning sprinting between patches of dandelions and wandering the tree lines; returning with a basket full of the flowers, a ‘shopping list’ of found foragables and a plan to spend a family day in the fields sampling them. I love that they can engage with their environment in this way – and are sensible enough not to graze unattended!
As well as being readily available, dandelions are also easily identifiable. There are other plants, namely the Cat’s Ear, that look similar at a glance; but with a closer look their differences are plain. This site is a good source of information on spotting the difference, though there’s no need for the beginner forager to be concerned. These plants aren’t just similar in appearance; they’re also equally edible, used in the same way and have similar nutritional and health benefits. The humble dandelion has been used by many to treat ailments such as muscle aches, gall stones, liver disorders and cancer; and scientific study into its potential as a medicine is producing promising results. It’s also known to be a good source of vitamins A, C, B6, D, E and K; along with iron, calcium and lots of lovely detoxifying antioxidants. Dandelions – like many foragables – are an effective diuretic so bear this in mind when using with other plants. Also take care when using with other natural remedies or medications and seek appropriate advice prior to use.
Dandelion Set Syrup
- 200 dandelions
- 4 cups (1l) water
- 1kg white sugar
- Lemon (1/2)
- Sharp knife
- Medium sized lidded cooking pot
- Wash the dandelions thoroughly and leave to stand for half an hour (give any bugs chance to escape!)
- Using a sharp knife, remove the petals by cutting just above the base of the flower – any green that you can separate from petals at this point, do* – and put the petals into a medium-sized cooking pot.
- Add 4 cups of water to the pot, cover and bring to a rolling boil
- Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for an hour
- Allow to cool then put in the fridge overnight
*Too much green and your syrup will be bitter, but if cut close to the base the surrounding leaves should come away fairly easily.
- Remove from fridge and, using a sieve or cheese cloth, strain your golden liquid into a jug. Press the petals with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid.
- Transfer the liquid to the pot, add juice of half a lemon. Cover and warm over a medium heat
- When warm, add white sugar to your mixture a cup at a time. For a thicker syrup, add more sugar; and vise versa.
- Increase heat and bring to a rolling boil
- Reduce heat to low and cover pot, simmer for around an hour – until thickened
- Pour your syrup into a warm jar. Use fresh and hot over waffles and store leftover syrup in the cupboard to
show offshare with friends 🙂
The syrup can be refrigerated for longer storing, just remove the jar from the fridge and place in hot water prior to use. You can use the same warming method to thin down syrup stored at room temperature.
This syrup is like sunshine in a jar and we’ll put it on pretty much anything – so get creative with the sweet stuff! Try adding a few spoons to a batch of plain cake batter or biscuit mix for a subtle natural flavour.
This recipe makes a set syrup of a similar consistency to set honey. For a runny syrup suitable for drizzling you will need to adjust the method slightly, and use the juice of a whole lemon; on day one boil the liquid for one minute, cover, and refrigerate overnight. On day two add the lemon juice with the sugar and simmer until most of the water evaporates. Do not bring to a rolling boil. Allow the mix to cool, then simmer once more until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup.
Bacon and Dandelion Stir Fry
- 1 cup lardons – bigger is better
- A good handful or two of dandelion leaves (1.5-2 cups when wet and chopped)
- 1 cup baby carrots
- 2 cup broccoli florets
- 2 shallots
- 1tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1tbsp soy sauce
- Wash and roughly chop the dandelion leaves
- Peel and thickly slice shallots
- Heat sesame oil in a wok and add carrots, shallots and lardons. Stir-fry on med-high heat for 5 minutes
- Add soy sauce, broccoli and dandelion leaves, stir fry for 5 minutes until tender-crisp.
- Serve and enjoy!
We like ours mixed in with egg noodles and couscous, but it’s just as good on its own for a quick lunch. The bacon can be substituted for pine nuts (toss in for the final 5 minutes of cooking) for an even healthier and equally tasty outcome.
Eating foraged foods is enriching beyond the nutrients they share. The experience of taking your food from field to plate, all by yourself, is incredibly rewarding. It reminds you that you are inherently connected to the Earth and all of its cycles, and with that knowledge you can begin to sustain yourself.
We’d love to hear about your foraging adventures, share your tips and recipes in the comments or head over to our Love Learn Wander Facebook page and share your photo’s!