It’s most definitely spring. Wild garlic is sprouting up alongside muscari and my fritillaries, the sun’s shining and those dandelion ‘weeds’ are starting to come up all over the place. It’s only in our modern day world that these are considered a weed. Considered to be lawn wreckers by some, they are subjected to all sorts of torture by chemicals and the dreaded fork. But in days of old, this ‘weed’ was rich pickings for the daily diet. The flowers, leaves and root are all edible and used in many different ways – teas and tonics to fritters and bread.
The name comes from the French ‘dent de lion’ which literally translated means ‘lion’s tooth. I guess this refers to the jagged leaves which look a little like sharp teeth. The French grows these widely for culinary use in the same way that we grow lettuce and microgreens.
Seems such a shame to toss them into the compost when they are such a sunny, happy looking plant. Now is really the best time to pick them. They are only just starting to pop up, so source leaves that are thin and part of a plant that has not yet budded. These will be earthy, a little nutty and not so bitter. Also source them somewhere they are unlikely to have been chemically sprayed. I don’t have a great lawn but we usually get a few plants come up at this time of year. My allotment however had lots this weekend. I had to stamp the nettles down a little to get to them but my neighbours humoured and helped.
The small, thin leaves can be tossed straight into salad with rocket, baby spinach and watercress. The thicker leaves need a little steaming and pairing with other flavours to mitigate the bitterness. It all seems like a palaver really but they are so packed full of vitamins which are retained when cooking that it’s hard to discount them.
To prepare them, just give them a really good wash with cold water, pour boiling water over them and then leave them to soak for a few minutes. You could also lightly steam them with garlic in the same way as you would chard. I chopped up the leaves and used them in place of spinach in this.
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