Friday, 25 March 2011

Spring leaves part 1

Well, all of a sudden it's spring - trees in full blossom, and all the new green leaves popping up all of a sudden.

The blossom came more or less over night - we had a really sunny day last week, and the branches went from little knobbly lumps of bud to full-blown flowers from one day to the next.

With luck we won't get another frost, which should mean a good autumn for fruit forage. 2010 was excellent, due to a cold winter before the sap rose and no frost later to kill the buds. This winter had plenty of cold, which fruit trees like, so fingers crossed for a good vintage 2011. In the mean time, pick leaves.

Dandelions are one of the best forage plants: there's no shortage of them. Indeed, gardeners often go to great lengths to get rid of them: futile lengths, as the plants have amazing powers of regeneration, even from the tiniest fragments of root. But why bother? Every bit of the dandelion  (except the stalk, which is full of bitter latex) is good to eat or brew.

Here's a recipe to do right now. I wrote a meat-eating version for my Wild Brews column in Smallholder magazine, but not sure if it's going in or not (if it doesn't, I'll post it here sometime).

This is a no-animal-produce version, suitable for all.

Dandelion Salad (serves 2-4)
    • Two full handfuls of young dandelion leaves
    • Two handfuls of sunflower seeds 
    • Half a cucumber
    • Lemon juice 
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lay the sunflower seeds of a sheet of foil or baking paper and place under a hot grill, shaking from time to time so the seeds are evenly toasted
Wash dandelion leaves thoroughly in cold water. Drain the leaves, spin dry in a salad spinner, or wrap in a clean dry tea cloth and shake dry, or pat dry.
Wash and chop the cucumber.
Roughly chop the dandelion leaves.
Mix the leaves, cucumber and toasted seeds and toss together with lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper.

This makes a good starter or side-salad for Risotto alle Ortiche, which uses another good foraging stalwart: nettles. Recipes coming up soon. Enjoy your forage. :)