Wild Things in April - Dandelions Redux


Two years ago, when Wild Things was in its infancy, I chose to highlight dandelions in April.  For the first time ever, I'm going to repeat a featured plant.  I've two reasons for this.  First, last month's theme of trees was challenging, even for experienced foragers.  Secondly, dandelions easy to identify and every part of them are edible.
 
One of the missions of Wild Things is to inspire and encourage everyone who wants to forage to be able to cook with wild foods.  I'm revisiting dandelions this month so that everyone who has wanted to participate in the past, but felt some trepidation, has a chance to do so.

Most people instantly recognize dandelions, although there are a few plants like chicory that have similar leaves.  If you are uncertain as to whether you have a dandelion, look at the underside of a leaf.  Dandelions have no bristle-like hairs on the midvein.  I've also found that dandelion leaves have the same fragrance as the flowers, a scent I know well from childhood.  If you need further help identifying dandelions, have a look at Steve Brill's page about them.

As always, Wild Things is about people's real life experiences cooking with wild foods.  Everyone, from first-timer to more experienced foragers are encouraged to participate.  This isn't about being fancy or impressive, just real.  You should also know that you don't even need to have a blog to participate.  Entries about both food and medicinal uses of dandelion are welcome.

If you've not participated in the past, the instructions are below.  It is very important (please please please!) that you send your entry to this address - wildthings.roundup@gmail.com 

Are you new to Wild Things?  Here's the scoop.

In many countries, traditional foods are prepared for their medicinal effects. In most of these places, the foods prepared were wild foods that were cheap and easy to obtain. By default, they were local and seasonal. One of the problems with a lot of modern fad diets is that in order to actually follow the diet, one needs to fork out a whole lot of money. Most of us just can't afford to do that, especially not in this economy! Not only that, but it seems might suspicious that, in many cases, these products that are touted as panaceas have to come from half way around the globe -- noni from Tahiti, acai from Brazil, gogii from China. What are the odds that God (or the higher being of your choice) put all of the good stuff in Tahiti, and left us to fend for ourselves until the advent of globalization? Whether food or medicine, the majority of what we need can be found locally. It might not be trendy, but it will most probably be just as effective, if not more so. Wherever you are, you have with your reach an untapped resource - wild foods!
Welcome to the Wild Things Round Up*
As your host, I'd like to demonstrate that eating wild foods doesn't need to be a terrifying endeavor, and that our health and our diet needn't be dictated by financial status or geographic location.

A Few Notes About the Round Up
1. Wherever you are, you have access to Wild Things, even if this means clandestine trips to your neighbor's yard in the middle of the night**.

2. Foraging isn't only for hippies and luddites, though hippies and luddites are both very much welcome (Hi, Hippie!  Hi, Luddite!). It's easy to assume that everyone who eats this way lives out in the wild, and shuns the material world and/or technology. But it just isn't true! This isn't a club exclusive to country mice. I live smack in the middle of suburbia. I'm a very well adjusted modern woman who loves my life, and happen to love nature as well.

3.  This is not about trying to be a cave dweller. Though there are plenty of people in the world who successfully and gracefully live a life that is more similar to how people lived hundreds, or even thousands of years ago. I'm not one of those people, and I'll assume that for the most part, you are not either.  It's easy to romanticize, but that is a difficult, hard working life. It's also not necessary to remove yourself from the modern world in order to be connected to nature. When it comes down to it, isn't that what we all want a bit more of -- connection, to nature, to community, to other people, to a higher power? Nature is everywhere. Life is everywhere. It's not outside of your touch. It's not only available to people who sacrifice modern convenience. You do not need to give up your makeup or latte.

A Few Foraging Rules

1. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING THAT YOU CANNOT 100% IDENTIFY!!! I can't stress the importance of this point. People can die from this sort of stupidity. Let's not win any Darwin Awards here.

2.  Know the foraging laws in your area. Call the city, call the forest service, call the landowner.   Respect private property. Ask permission. Most people will gladly let you pull up some weeds for them. Most of them are delighted to get rid of some of the fruit that rots all over the pavement. Just ask.

3.  Don't take more than you need. Never take rare plants. Learn what's in your area -- only take things what are abundant. This is important! Always think of the future, not just in terms of what you want, but in terms of the ecology of the system from which you are harvesting. These ecosystems have been around for millenia, since long before people got there. Don't be the one to change that in one generation.

Tools You Will Need

1. Scissors and/or pocket knife

2. A local guidebook (don't be tempted to grab a national guide), with pictures

3. Bags for collecting food

How to Play

At the beginning of each month, I will introduce a new Wild Thing. I will give pictures, descriptions, best locations, and taste, and also list any possible toxicity issues. The plants that I feature will be those with few, if any, toxic lookalikes. And if there are any, I'll give you ample warning. None of the plants I select will have any potential lethal lookalikes.

Over the course of the month, both you and I will go and find the featured plant, play with it in the kitchen, and come up with creative ways to use it. But don't feel like you need to invent a recipe in order to participate. Feel free to tell about your experience using a known recipe. But please do credit the originator of the recipe.

If you have a blog, post your recipe on your blog, and then share it with Wild Things. Also, mine your archives, and link old recipes.

If you don't have a blog, you are still welcome to participate. Simply introduce your recipe and experience with a few sentences, and then share your recipe. A picture is always nice, too, although not necessary to play along.

Before the end of the month (sooner is better, because your host has a day job!), submit your recipe to wildthings.roundup@gmail.com . Please send your recipe directly to that email address. If you send it to my personal email, or post it on Facebook, I'm likely to forget it.
At the end of the month, I will provide a round up list of everyone's adventures. Sound like fun?  I think so.
*No association with Monsanto.

** Just kidding.  I don't advocate stealing. Really, there's no need -- a knock on the door and a "Hey, I noticed that you have an apple tree full of rotting apples. I was wondering, could I take a few of them, or pay you for some of them, or mow your lawn for some of them?" will suffice. Most people are horrified at the thought of taking money for apples, and will drop big bags of them off on your front step for months to come.

Comments

  1. Excellent! This is a plant that I know :)

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  2. So you think I should just let the dandylions in my yard grow and grow and make crazy colonies of my yard?

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    1. I don't expect that everyone should go to the lengths that I do to protect their dandelions as a food source. But I do think that if you are going to pull them out of your yard, you should at least consider eating them.

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  3. I've never seen the whole thing before.

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  4. My mom is from Italy, and she ate these things all the time. But me, I'm afraid. What if I get sick, what if I die? There's a part of me that wants to give in and try these, but I feel so much safer getting my broccoli and corn from the store.

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    1. Here's the thing, Carolina - broccoli and corn from the store can be loaded with dangers you can never see or know. Dandelions are a weed. The only real risk is that they have been sprayed by human. Try to stay away from any area that looks like it has been cared for by human - mowed lawns, immaculate rock gardens, etc. Try to find places that look neglected, they won't have been spayed. Foraging is about making good decisions. Unlike commercial produce, the decisions are in your hands. You are in control. You can always decide not to eat a foraged plant!

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  5. I love that dandelion photo very much.

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    1. Two weeks later, and I didn't even have to borrow it ;)

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  6. Ok, so I tried some last night. Oooooeeeee that is some bitter stuff. I mixed a few leaves into a salad, and it wasn't bad, though. I never thought I'd eat dandelions, but you are very convincing.

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    1. That's the best way to do it Candy, putting small amounts of dandelion leaves into foods that you are familiar with. They also work in all manner of stir-fries, egg dishes, etc.

      I read about one lady who didn't like the taste of dandelions, but wanted to get used to them for health purposes, so she ate three leaves per day for an entire month. Apparently this helped her to appreciate them more in the end.

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  7. I tried it for the first time because of you, too! I sort of like it, sort of :) I think I'm going to need more recipes though so I know what to do with it.

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    1. Don't worry, there will be plenty of recipes to come. My own favorite this year has been dandelions and onions on a white sauce pizza.

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  8. There you go, are you happy? I ate dandelions from my yard just because of this. And you know what? I liked the!!! Are you proud of yourself?????

    ;P

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  9. Funny that we all seem to have had the same thought, done the same thing. I ate a dandelion flower because of this. It tasted sort of like it smelled, nice!

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  10. It wouldn't be spring without dandelions. I wish my neighborhood wasn't so fond of spraying them.

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  11. Are dandelions stubbly in the back? I picked some that look like dandelions but the back of the leaf by the spine was prickly.

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  12. The Italians call them Chicoria but the European variety is a bit different in looks and taste to our bright yellow dandelion greens. I go with the traditional Greek Pita wild herb pie recipes and my kids and their friends will eat this cheesey pie with tons of bright green bits in it. Make a cornmeal crusted slow rise bread recipe and stretch it thin and place into a pie dish. Chopped Dandelions, olive oil, ricotta cheese (go ahead and sub beaten small curd cottage cheese) plus 2 eggs and a cup of grated pecorino romano or Greek mizithra hard cheese). Beat the filling until mixed and add chopped garlic and grated nutmeg to taste. Don't forget the salt to taste. The greens can take a lot of chopped garlic and salt! Bake at 375 until brown and crusty, about 40 minutes and let cool before serving. I also bake at 450 on a pizza stone for 20 minutes as a calzone with this filling. A very tasty cheese pie with dandelion greens that masks the bitterness with garlic, cornbread and olive oil flavors.

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