Friday, May 13, 2011

On A Frustrating But Misunderstood Weed

Guess what I made?

I made THESE. (go HERE for the recipe)

What ARE those, you ask?

Well, here is your answer:

Yup. Those are what you think they are.


By now, you might be thinking, "but WHAT did you DO to them?!?"

To answer your question, I will tell you a little story.

It begins, as you might guess, with me.

I was having a hard time finding all the speakers I needed to fill in the slots for our summer talk series. I had ONE slot to fill and it had to be done by the end of April. As I pondered who else I could as, an obvious answer dawned on me.

Why couldn't I give a talk? Hadn't I had a lot of experience doing this last year? Didn't I give a popular educational talk on "The Incredible Edible Forest" over and over and over again?

Why not here?

But it still seemed too simple for the tastes of this particular group. I needed a little more flare and something that would interest all these well seasoned gardeners.

So, I am calling my talk "Nature's Tea Party". What am I talking about? Mostly herbal teas that can be made from plants harvested in the woods and from your garden (and their health benefits) but also some FOODS that you can make from those plants. Nothing substantial, but something that you might be able to serve at a tea party. For example, chrysanthemum salads, ice cubes with violets frozen inside, dandelion greens, etc.

And so I have been looking for recipes. The other day I posted on Facebook that I was looking forward to pulling up some dandelions. And my friends reply was "make dandelion fritters!"

Fritters? Really? FLOWER fritters? Weird.

But then I looked up a recipe. It was simple and they actually looked GOOD.

The general idea was this. Make a batter with an egg, flour, and milk. Pick FRESH dandelion flower heads (if you let them sit for too long, they wilt and actually close up. I learned this the hard way). Dip them in the batter and give them a spin or two to be sure they are coated. Then drop them in a pan of hot oil.

As simple as that. Eat plain, with mustard, with honey, WHATEVER!

And so, I made the above little fritters.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Knowing from my childhood that dandelions are bitter, I was hesitant. But, as with many things, cooking minimizes certain flavors. These little treats have a mild flavor. Not much to them. But they are light and their texture is quite pleasing. And the bitterness is VERY muted-little more than a hint of an aftertaste. And with honey, they are perfect!

This is something I look forward to making with my kids in the future.

Why would I even CONSIDER eating these flowers? Well, as with all the plants I am researching, they have a multitude of health benefits! Dandelions contain vitamins A and C, they have been historically used to lower blood pressure. And when consumed regularly have been said to help with mild aches and pains.

I have grand plans for this little yellow menace of a flower. Along with the flower heads, I collected THESE:

Dandelion roots (cleaned and scraped) and dandelion greens.

The roots, I will roast and grind to make dandelion "coffee". It's not REALLY coffee, but apparently some people use it as a SUBSTITUTE for coffee.

The leaves, I will dry out and use in tea. For more immediate use, I am thinking of cooking them and adding them to a pasta salad with tomato, feta, vinegar, and oil. Or maybe in scrambled eggs. Or even in a soup! I could even eat them UN-cooked in a salad (though I imagine that their bitterness comes through stronger when they are uncooked.

And the rest of the flowers I collected will ALSO be made into tea. AND I added dandelion petals to the rest of the batter I didn't use when making the fritters. I am going to make pancakes tomorrow. Dandelion, oat pancakes.

So I am going on a kind of dandelion binge. They really are a pretty little flower. So sunny and bright! And it IS fun to blow the seeds away. I remember when Trissy(ie) was a puppy and I would take her on my paper route with me she would EAT dandelions gone to seed.

It was SO funny to see! She would snap one up and then her lick her tongue in and out in an attempt to get all the seeds out of her mouth. Then she would snap up the next one she saw. It was ADORABLE!

Anyway, I guess what I am saying is YES, on a green lawn I suppose these plants can be unsightly. But even though they are a weed, they are NATIVE. They are a heck of a lot better than other invasive weeds. And you can EAT them!

So instead of teaching my kids that dandelions are the bane of all gardeners, we will go out on a sunny day and harvest all that we can of them!

There are so many plants that have health benefits! So many TEAS to talk about! So many to MAKE! I just hope that Merryspring has all that I am looking for.

Speaking of Merryspring, here are a couple recent photos.

We are FINALLY getting FLOWERS!

"This is just the beginning!" Ray said to me as I was admiring the beauty. I can't wait until this place is in FULL SWING!

Here are some more.

Now lets take a walk on the wild side. And by that, I mean lets see what is growing WILD at Merryspring.

Fuzzy ferns of some kind...

"Names Spruce!" (Said in an Australian accent. Elise, this is you first freebie quote.)


Jack in the Pulpit. GAH! I LOVE this plant. I can't wait for another sunny day to take ANOTHER picture of it, more mature!

Am I a nerd for getting REALLY excited when I saw these growing on the side of the entrance road? Yes. But I am fine with that. I mean, this is the first time I have ever seen Horsetail! It's believed by many botanists that these little plants used to be as tall as TREES in the prehistoric ages before animals even came about!

Johnny Jump Ups! Wild Pansies. These were some of the FIRST flowers to arrive.

Oh. My. Gosh. LEAVES!!!! Where did THESE come from??
By the way, sugar maples are EVERYWHERE here! Every yard seems to have one! All over town there are patches of sidewalks that are CARPETED in little yellow flowers. I'll try to get a picture and post it in my next entry.

I call this picture, The Merryspring Conspiracy. This moss covered boulder kind of looks like an alien skull does it not?

The hills are ALIVE with the sound of music. I tell you what, after this absolutely perfect day we've had a lot of rain and a lot of clouds. I WISH every day were like this right now.

I'm pretty ROOTED to my desk lately, but I try to find EVERY excuse to get outside and on the trails! My current one is "I need to familiarize myself with the wildflowers and trees of Maine for when I take kids on tours."

And here are some from the walk I take to and from work every day. Spring is finally STARTING to arrive. Though it's still COLD more often than not.

This is Mt. Battie, which Camden is at the feet of. It's kind of neat, being in Camden. We have a small river, a small mountain, and the ocean! It's lovely.

Here is the Magunticook river. The small river I was talking about. This bridge is right down the street from where I am living. I can hear it rushing from the house.

This is just a nice spring view down one of the roads I tread.

And this is a view up the street I live on.

I call this the Magunticook falls. This is actually an old mill that is used as office and business space now.

This is the river ABOVE the falls. Calm and lovely.

Annnnd.....this is kind of random.

Well, I hope you all have a good week. Mine promises to be rainy. It will take ALL my energy to remain motivated (since I can't get outside) and up beat. But I will manage.


Peeser said...

Finding Nemo?

Is it just a play on words? Because I'm pretty sure his name is Bruce, not Spruce- and if I am correct in identifying the source, you should probably put an apostrophe in the word "names," since he would be referring to what his name IS...

And I just laughed at the thought of puppy-Trissy eating dandelions.

You should read Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury- really quite a fascinating book- more like a collection of vignettes tied together by a couple of central characters and the town in which they all live. I especially love the way Bradbury describes the dandelion wine... (Just don't actually drink any since, as far as I could tell, it was still wine.)

Lovely pictures! :)

Jeanne, the mom and grandmom said...

LOVE LOVE all the photos. What a beautiful place you live in and what a great job you did in capturing it. Why doesn't Trissy eat dandelion puffs now? Oh, that's right, she now is the mole eradicator - or molinator!

The Tame Lion said...

Absolutely fantastic!
Thanks for sharing, you make my day!!

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