Valerie O’Connor runs to the meadows and ditches for dandelions.

Spring has sprung and although the weather may be bright and sunny, the alarming alteration between biting wind and sunbathing is nothing short of confusing. 

As things springs forth, this is a time to stop and see what free food is growing all around you. 

You will have read about nettles and wild garlic in recent articles on this page, wonderful foods, widely available and highly nutritious.

As we become more interested in chowing down on foreign imports like almonds and avocados, coconuts and mangoes, and while delicious, we are ignoring the foods that grow here.

If you cast your eyes around you now you will see the first signs of the dandelion or dande-de-lion or lion’s tooth, so called because of the sawlike leaf. 

This so-called weed, bright yellow and sunny, is a hotbed for bee pollination and the source of those foods we keep hearing about now — prebiotics.

Prebiotics are things like onions and garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke and asparagus, all delicious but usually we have to buy them. 

Prebiotics help to keep your gut clean and healthy and keep things ‘flowing’, the more you consume prebiotic foods, the better your probiotics will work.

Tis the season to be foraging for dandelions

Pop out to your garden, preferably dog-free, and of course you wouldn’t dream of spraying chemicals, and there you will find the most widely available prebiotic food, the dandelion.

We might remember calling these sunny delights things like pissy-beds as kids, indeed they are widely referred to as pis en lit by our French cousins. 

This is because dandelions are diuretic and help to clear out the kidneys of salt and excess water, so if you’re feeling bloated or suffering with water retention, a dose of dandelions will work wonders. Dandelion root is also said to act as a laxative so it can help with constipation too.

The plant is loaded with vitamins A, B, C and D. When it comes to D, we shouldn’t be surprised as the sunny flower mimics the sun itself, with the sun being the greatest bringer of precious vitamin D we simply cannot get enough of it. 

Sadly in recent years, fear of the sun has led to overuse of chemically-laden sun creams which block out all beneficial rays and stop us from getting our precious vitamin D.

Lack of vitamin D is connected to multiple sclerosis and other nervous system disorders so it is a good idea to take your sun carefully and responsibly, treating sunbathing like the therapy that it is. 

Nutritional therapists recommend we sunbathe without cover for 10 minutes each side, slowly building up to a longer time. Summer is our chance to get our vitamin D. 

In the meantime, eat your dandelions. The flowers themselves taste quite sweet, while the leaves are mind-blowingly bitter. So prepare them in a way that makes them edible and tasty.

Dandelion fritters

The first time I ate dandelion flowers was by making these delicious fritters. 

They are easy and a great sneaky way to get kids to eat the flowers, of course if they are little kids and haven’t yet learned to dislike things they will want to eat them anyway. 

Always pick your food in places that aren’t sprayed with harmful chemicals, don’t pick too many as the bees need them too.

Ingredients

Dandelion heads — about 6 per person

100g white flour, spelt flour or a gluten free mix

2 eggs

Pinch salt

Pinch baking powder

Butter or coconut oil for frying

Honey to drizzle

Method

1. Make a batter by whisking the flour with the eggs, salt and baking powder, if it is too thick add a little water to make a runny consistency.

2. Heat up the fat of your choice on a frying pan and now dip the flower heads into the batter one by one, then dropping them onto the pan.

3. Fry each fritter gently until golden brown and then turn them over to cook the other side

4. Pile them high on a plate, scattered with berries, drizzled with yoghurt and honey and enjoy this quirky super food treat.

Dandelion Vinegar

This is an easy way to preserve the powers of the dandelion for time to come.

Simply pick lots of dandelion greens, wash them in water that ideally isn’t chlorinated, otherwise just shake them off.

Pack them into a jar and cover them with unpasteurised apple cider vinegar. 

Cover them, ideally with a rubber sealed lid, and store in a dark place for six to eight weeks.

After this time you will get some of the benefits of the herb in the vinegar and you can also eat the greens in salads.

Wilted greens pasta

A quick and easy way to get the most from these wonderweeds is to make a simple supper with spaghetti.

Simply cook your pasta as usual and heat up a large frying pan with some olive oil in it.

Add 2 to 4 cloves of garlic, sliced and fry for a minute and them throw in a handful per person of dandelion greens, stir-frying them until they are just wilted.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan, giving everything a good stir. Pop it onto a plate and finish with some grated parmesan or other hard cheese, maybe even add a few dandelion fritters on top.


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