Wild Things in April - Dandelion
In a fitting welcome to spring, the featured herb of the month for the Wild Things Round Up is dandelion.
It seems to me that there are two camps when it comes to dandelions. There are those who see it as the enemy, to be eradicated at all costs. And there are those who delight in it's beauty as a flower and one of the first harbingers of spring. You probably didn't have to think too long to figure out that I fall into the latter category. Moreso now that I am acquainted with the plants nearly endless list of uses both as a food and medicine.
As herbalist Michael Moore notes, if you want to find dandelion, "In February, place a chair facing an area where grass will grow in the spring, then just wait." But as with all foraging, be certain that you use dandelions that have not be sprayed by human chemicals or dog pee.
All parts of the dandelion - buds, flowers, leaves, and roots may be eaten as food. The leaves, especially as the year progresses, can be a little bitter. A quick hot-water blanching can sometimes help with this before proceeding with a recipe. Dandelion roots, when roasted, take on a toasty flavor which is somewhat like coffee.
Dandelion is also an age-old medicine. To find out more about how to use this plant to heal, visit my friend Bek over at Cauldrons and Crockpots.
Dandelion Bud Capers
So, last week, I was looking at my harvest of dandelion buds when it struck me how closely they resembled capers. Ah-ha, I've never tried pickling them before! I know that great culturing adventurer, Sandor Katz, would approve of my little experiment.
I prepared the buds by stripping off their sepals, cutting off any brown or bruised spots, and washing them. I placed the buds into a sterilized jar, along with a clove of garlic, a few juniper berries, and some pink peppercorns. Next, I covered them completely with salt water, using Katz's ratio of 3/4 Tbsp. sea salt to 1 c. non-chlorinated water.
The next step was to place a small sterilized glass bowl into the opening of the jar, to keep all the buds submerged under the salt water (you can also use a plastic bag filled with the brine). This sat on the counter for five days before I thought they tasted nice and zingy. So, I put a lid on them and popped 'em into the fridge.
The juniper berries make the little buds taste very close to actual capers - piney and salty and tangy. They're a wonderful condiment.
Wild Things Round Up is a foraging recipe challenge, and you are invited to join in. Do you have a favorite dandelion fritter or wine recipe that is a tradition in your family? Or would you like to invent something wild and new? If you'd like the skinny on the rules, read up here. Otherwise, get cracking on your recipe, post it, and at the end of the month, submit it to email@example.com .
I'm sharing the challenge with the Hearth and Soul hop, and Real Food Wednesday.