Today we are cooking tempura battered dandelions, a real Springtime treat. Famous as a garden weed, this yellow headed plant isn’t often noted for its fantastic healing properties but dandelions are a real gift from nature.
They are a natural anti-inflammatory, used in skincare to treat anti-aging and has a long history as a medicinal plant since the 11th century. Dandelions can provide a welcome boost to your immune system in Springtime. All parts of this special weed are edible. Today the root is used as a trendy substitute for coffee.
Try this delicious recipe to add some freshly washed dandelions to your diet.
Tempura Battered Dandelions
What you will need: Freshly Foraged Dandelion heads (aim for between 15 – 20).
1 Large Egg
125 g Plain Flour
250 ml/1 Cup of very cold water or sparkling water
Aioli Dipping Sauce
2 Egg yolks
4 Tablespoons of White wine vinegar
120 ml Olive oil
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 lemon juiced
2 teaspoons of sea salt
STEP 1 Prepare the batter. The key here is making sure that the water is very cold. Leave it in the freezer for a 2 or 3 minutes if you want. Add the egg to the water, now gently mix in the flour with a spoon until smooth.Heat the vegetable oil in a wok, deep saucepan or deep fat fryer to 180’c.
STEP 2 Prepare the Dandelion heads by gently washing them, removing the stem and leaves. Pat them dry before using them.
STEP 3 Before you start cooking your flowers, prepare your aioli sauce. Mince the garlic, mix the egg yolk and vinegar, whisk in the olive oil, add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
STEP 4 Now is the exciting part. Heat a large portion of vegetable oil in a pot or wok. (Note: Never leave a pan of oil heating alone. Stay with the cooker until you are finished). Sprinkle your dandelion heads with flower, dip into the batter and drop into the hot oil for 2 minutes until they are golden brown. Only do a handful each time.
These delicious snacks are a super healthy way to use your recently foraged treats and some of your staple fridge vegetables.
Alexanders are ripe for picking from April to June. These wonderful wild edible plants pop up everywhere. You will find them growing in park edges, forest edges and near coastal regions. It tastes like a mixture of celery and parsley, making it the perfect pairing for stir-fry’s and a lot of Asian dishes. If you are a vegetarian then you will welcome this addition to your vegetable list.
Try boiling the stems and leaves and making a substitute for pepper from the flower heads. The seeds are spicy acting as a healthy addition to your spice rack. You will see that many chefs use the roots, roasting them with a little olive oil and salt (as you would normally do with roasted carrots and parsnips).
Here is our little Alexander recipe for you to try out at home.
Alexander Spring Rolls
Spring Roll Wraps 2 cups of flour 2 tablespoons of corn starch 3/4 cup of very cold water 1 heaped teaspoon of salt Tip: Once you have combined the ingrediants to form your dough leave it to the side for 20 minutes while you prepare your filling.
Spring Roll Filling Finely Chopped Alexender Leave Finely chopped Alexander stems (about a handful) 1 bunch of wild garlic leaves Red Chilli Finely chopped yellow onion Yellow pepper sliced finely Diced cucumber 3 Tablespoons of Oyster Sauce Salt and Pepper
Gently saute the filling ingredients in a hot pan for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl beat an egg.
Now make 8 dough balls from your wrapping mixture. Spend time rolling out each ball until it is as thin as you can get it.
Add the filling to the centre of your wrap.
Brush the rest of the inside with egg to help stick the wrap together and roll them up.
We hope that you have fun trying this wild recipe and sharing your Alexander Spring Rolls with friends.
Do you want a taste of the forest? The fresh air, the wild garlic, the scent of pine, everything about the forest shouts discover and explore. This is exactly what we do when we cook with wild foods and embark on a foraging adventure.
Today we went to the woods and found the most delicious wild greens, fiddleheads, wild garlic, scarlet elf cups and jelly ears. Now we are ready to whip up a tasty bowl of pho to warm us up for the evening.
1 bunch of Wild Garlic Leaves
A few leaves of wild mustard
Cleavers aka Sticky Willies
Mushrooms (any kind will do but we used Jelly ears and Elf cups because we had some freshly picked)
1 large onion
A pinch of cinnamon
Mint to garnish
Now you are ready to put your dish together and this couldn’t be easier. Saute the onion in a tablespoon of butter, add the wild garlic leaves
for two minutes. Now add the ginger, wild mustard and Fiddleheads. Stir gently for 1 minute. Add chili flakes, peppercorns and cinnamon. After another two minutes frying add the mushrooms. Now gently ladle the beef stock over the mixture, stirring as you pour. When your soup mix has boiled add the noodles.
I always have a few crackers on the side.
Now you are ready to serve and enjoy!
If you enjoyed this wild food recipes then you might also like to give our wild garlic pesto a try.
As a keen forager, it is safe to say that I love all things wild food related, including the invasive species that climb onto, grow on and invade our native landscapes. When people see hear about my foraging adventures or join me for a trip outdoors, they are often worried if we are damaging the environment around us. I never claim to be an expert.
When it comes to wildlife, nobody is an expert. However, if you take the time to learn about the environment around you, the plants that grow in different seasons and the invasive plant species that are causing trouble than foraging for wild food and learning about the landscapes is the ideal way to brush up on your knowledge and avoid damaging the environment. If you would like to forage for wild foods go with somebody who knows their region, bring the right equipment and enjoy spending time outdoors.
I have been following fellow foragers and food enthusiasts for a long time now and there are a few that have increased their focus on invasive plant species. So what are invasive plants, how can we identify them and how can we use them in our everyday lives?
Invasive plants are introduced to their surroundings by foreign means and usually spreads generously around us. When they start to thrive they often cause harm to native eco-systems. Depending on your location you may be familiar with some non-native plant species. For instance, Japanese knotweed thrives in the woodlands and marshlands of Ireland.
Here are just a few common invasive species you can find in Ireland:
Zebra Mussels can cause changes in water cycles and impact on the native mussels we love and the fish stocks. These guys originally come from Russia and the Ukraine. Many people won’t eat these mussels as they pick up pollutants easily. However, so does all shellfish so more research is needed here and they are used by chefs in some parts of the world.
One of the hardest to pick but the sweetest taste if you can manage the picking. We finds lots of these berries spiking from their branches along the east coast shores of Ireland. Full of anti-oxidents and Vitamin C, this berry hangs around the shorelines of the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These guys are considered an invasive species so pick away.
It is highly likely that you have heard of or seen this invasive plant in a park nearby or even your neighbours garden. It was first brought to Europe in the mid 19th century by a botanist. Japanese Knotweed grows at an incredible rate and is capable of significantly damaging properties as it can squeeze through gaps of concrete.
There are three methods that are commonly recommended for helping to prevent the spread of Japanese knotweed. You can either spray it with chemicals that will eventually damage the environment around the plant, you can choose to bury it so deep that the plant is prevented from growing up out of the ground again or you can burn it. A less known method for getting rid of this disturbing plant is eating it. Yes, knotweed is edible and tastes similar to rhubarb, maybe a little more sour in taste. Not all parts of the plant are edible. Eat the shoots in springtime before they get hard. Enjoy them in dessert dishes and experiments.
Chickweed is a commonly foraged plant in Europe and it is native to the region. It can be varied in appearance but once you identify as area of it you will see it appear in the same place each year. It’s oval shaped leaves grow in pairs and it is abundant in Springtime. Best eaten fresh and raw, it has a mild flavour. It is considered an invasive species and often plagues land owners in North America. Instead of tackling it with pesticides, try picking some for your salads.
Considered an invasive herb in the US it can be found in forests and the edges of woodlands throughout the world. If you are based in the US or Canada than please feel free to go on the ultimate picking spree with this tasty plant. It takes over woodland spaecs and blocks the light and water resources from nature species. It grows on roadsides, forest edges and open forest floors. The young stems and leaves are delicious. They can be steamed with other vegetables to add a garlic mustard flavour or cut them up to add them to soups and salads. Garlic mustard pesto and hummus are great recipes too. Treat your dinner guests to a special dip with their chips.
This is a popular member of the mustard family and well known by foragers around the world. Tiny white flowers develop at the tip of the stems. The leaves and seeds are popular additions to salads and stir fry dishes. It is a welcome peppery flavour. Bittercress likes open, disturbed spaces and you will often find it popping up near the garden or along pathways. Like a lot of edible green weeds, the leaves from hairy bittercress wilt quickly so it is best to consume it fresh.
This sweet wild treat comes into its own in the summer months. It contains fatty acids and vitamin E. It is known to help treat digestive and urinary issues. Purslane has thick purple stems. You will notice the small yellow flowers that sprout from the tips of the plant. It is an invasive plant in North America and had been used in traditional dishes and salads in the 18th century.
There are wild treats to be found throughout the year but as we make our way into the Spring months the forests start to come alive. In February the snow capped slopes will start to appear green again and we can venture outdoors to get closer to nature.
So what’s in season at this time of the year. Foraging in February is fruitful if you know what to look for and where to find them.
A common plant that grows year round and is the perfect replacement for cress or rocket in your salad dishes. Pick the leaves when young; February is an ideal time of year to collect these.
This versatile stinging leaf is one of the most undervalued wild edibles around. From warming nettle soup to fresh nettle pesto there are so many ways to use this ingredient in Springtime.
Another underestimated small plant is pennywort. Often found crowded at the sides of forests and trees, this wild gem is said to help lower blood pressure. Eat it raw in salads or add it to dishes like you will find is some cuisine of Sri Lanka.
You will find this pungent plant growing in large patches in dense forests. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and chefs around the world will be out and about for wild garlic season. Follow your nose instead of your eyes for this wild plant as the smell will guide you to its location.
As the name suggests this wild plant can be found near the water sides. It works well in soups and the raw leaves are packed full of nutrients and anti-oxidants.
As a member of the rose family we love this refreshing wild plant species. The leaves are small and delicate and often hard to identify. Many say that it tastes like cucumber which makes is a perfect addition to all winter salads.
This is one of our favourite flowers. It has a mild coconut flavour and works a treat in salads and smoothies. Remember to leave some for the bees as they love these bright yellow flowers.
Be sure to wash all of your wild foraged foods carefully under luke warm water, never uproot the plant, be gentle and don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
Now that you know whats out there you can begin your foraging in February adventures.
Enjoy learning about the wild foods around you and join us for a local forage in Ireland if you are nearby. You will find our guided day tours here.
Join us for a taste of the wild as we embark on unique adventures in Dublin and Wicklow for some Springtime foraging fun. We will enjoy learning about the land around us, getting a taste for foraging and making some new friends.
We are pleased to announce three public foraging tours for the coming months.
Friday 21st of Feb – Dublin
In February we will walk the trails, sample the wild food and discover the wild foods around us.
How will we cope with any scarcity of food in the future if we don’t learn about our sources of food today? There is an alarming amount of coverage about the adverse effects of climate change on our eco-system. There are many ways that our food production could change in the future and climate change could have a severe impact in the foods that we already consume today.
It has been reported that our oceans are absorbing much of the heat from greenhouse gas emissions and this is damaging our coral reefs which are key breeding grounds for our marine life. Where will our fish go to survive? And with the pressure on farmers to pivot away from traditional beef farming where will we source or meat from?
Now isn’t the time to panic, its the time to plan and make some food choices that will help us to better understand the foods around us.Of course there are innovators coming up with brilliant solutions and there are farmers schemes like CSA’s that are re-imagining modern farming but we could also take a closer look at the forgotten, often ignored food sources, such as weeds. This week we present foraging as one way to substitute some of our key ingredients.
A series of freak climate events in the 1870s caused a Global drought that resulted in the death of millions of people. In India it was known as the Great Famine. The most significant climate event was El Nino of 1877 where warm waters released heat into the air creating storms. In addition to the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the Atlantic recorded higher temperatures than normal.
Today, we rarely find famines in the developed world. The majority of famines hit places where organisations cannot enter and trade issues are hurting local people. However, with all of these climate unknowns in front of us we must be prepared to take action in the case of a climate crisis. Eating local and community supported agriculture, known as CSA’s, have become trendy in recent years.
We hear about many people adopting sustainable agricultural practices and promoting community food initiative. They are not just farming enthusiasts but socially engaged individuals who enjoy spending time outdoors and learning about the land around them. A few examples to look up include Juniper Hill Farms and Moy Hill Farms. These farming communities should be admired for the innovative approach to farming. They also encourage the sharing of knowledge, which we love here at Orchards Near Me.
However, there are other opportunities if we decide to broaden our knowledge base and look at the traditional farming methods of nearby regions. It could be just as beneficial to learn about the foods coming from nearby resources. For example, in Europe we have many different climates that lead to the production of a wide variety of food species. In a time of crisis wouldn’t it be great to know what foods could your neighbours offer as a substitute if you run out? We believe this is all about immersive farming education and understanding the role of nature in the production of food.
Chefs from around the world, often privileged and guys that are striving for their next Michelin star love to travel to learn about other food cultures. We think the general public can also get it on this interesting past-time. Learning about the ancient art of crushing grapes in France or discovering why bee keeping is a national tradition in Slovenia or why the warm summer days of Bulgaria led to the popular cold soup of Tarator are ways to preserve traditions and carry them into the future.
Food is closely linked with the weather and geography of a region or country. Traditional dishes often reflect the mood associated with the climate. The proximity to the wild atlantic coast makes Portugal heaven for fish lovers and the cultivation of fruits and olives makes Greece a mecka for salad eaters.
If we begin to understand the landscapes around us and how they are affected by the climate we can better educate ourselves in food production and regain knowledge of how our ancestors used wild plants and integrated them into their dishes. Although large corporations have successfully harvested key ingredients for human consumption and distributed major crops around the world, it is also worth knowing about the lesser known and lesser used crops that can act as substitutes if the time comes when we need them too. This is one of the reasons why we encourage foraging and learning about the wild plants around you.
There is enough food to feed the masses as long as we teach ourselves about the food sources available to us and re-train our palettes so that we can adapt dishes to include some wild flavours.
What music do you listen to when you are out for a walk in nature? Mostly, we tend to listen to the trees around us or the rivers running or the birds whistling but a good forest walk playlist with the right beats can put a spring in your step.
Here are some of our favourite songs to listen to when we are out in the forest:
It was hard to narrow this list down to the above but we finally managed. Do you have your own forest walk playlist? We would love to hear your favourite tunes for outdoor listening. Send them to us below and we will add them to the list.
Every season we try to keep track of all of our wild food finds. We write them down, put them alongside new recipes that we try out and try to remember the locations of the plant. It is difficult to remember every trail and every outdoor adventure throughout the year so we have designed bespoke worksheets for our foraging adventures and our herb garden.
Each pack contains everything you need to start planning your wild food adventures. It should allow you to get organised and keep a record of your progress when you are learning about the herbs and wild plants around you. Each workbook contains 15 pages that are downloadable and reusable for your seasonal experiences.
You are never guaranteed to get warm weather when walking by the shore in Ireland. Raindrops comes in all shapes and sizes, tiny drops that sprinkle the ground, sideways rain that catches you off guard, warm drizzling rain that soaks you to the bone but all of these weather conditions combine to make it extra rewarding with you stumble upon some unique culinary treats.
From fresh mussels clinging to the sides of rock pools to the shy winkles hiding beneath the brown seaweed. You will find everything you need for a warm cup of seafood chowder along the Irish coastline. My first coastal foraging excursion was fruitful.
As a child my mother would buy us small plastic buckets and short fishing rods to scoop out the seaweed from the giant rockpools all along the Co.Clare coastlines. Picking was part of every stage of growing up. From child to adolescent I made the transition from bucket to bag and back again when picking along the shore.
My grandfather would take the whole family to a nearby beach and we would eagerly wait until the tide had gone fully out, revealing the rockpools, seaweed and most importantly the shellfish hiding underneath. The art of picking was simple, patience was the only real skill required.
Myself and my sister would spend hours scanning the shallow pools of water for the biggest winkles, crabs and mussels. Although all of the shellfish that we scoured for were easily identifiable, not all were easy to find.
Winkles were the easiest to collect. They tend to roll with the tide so it was not a matter of searching for them but more time was spent deciding on which ones to collect. I never tool the baby ones. This was my one rule for collecting winkles. Once you have avoiding the baby shells you can enjoy scooping out large handfuls of winkles alons most shorelines.
When it came to crabs I was always a little nervous to pick them up. Their claws would reach right out to stab pinch you if you were too quick. Sometimes we would just play with them for awhile before placing them carefully back in were they belonged. Laughing as they scrambled off to find their pals. Mussels were always considered the biggest treat. They clung tightly to the edges of rocks, making it more difficult to pull them off. Nothing can beat a pot of fresh mussels cooked in garlic and tomato juices. Give it a try. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.
Why not try a spot of razor clam hunting while you are by the shore. Simply bring some salt on your journey and seek out the small holes in the beach. Pour in the salt and watch in awe as the razor clams come to life.
Other favourites of mine include kelp and seaweed. These make delicious additions to salads. You can also use them to enhance the flavour of any seafood dish.
DON’T let the weather prevent you from your next adventure. Remember that a little rain never hurt anyone. If you happen to get a sunny day then take advantage of it, spending a few hours by the shore.
LEAVE enough for others. Everyday we hear warnings of over fishing so be mindful of this when you are foraging by the sea. Only pick enough for one days pickings, giving the shores time to replenish its goods over time.
WEAR suitable clothing. This is key to any foraging adventure. Waterproof shoes comes in handy when you playing in rockpools. Also, bring a spare pair of socks to keep your feet dry.
KNOW the tides. Most countries will offer websites that give you the times of the tidal currents. Keep a close eye on these. You don’t want to venture all the way to the beach to find that you have to wait five hours until the tide recedes.
DON’T be afraid of seaweed or crabs. The waves may look rough but the sea is gentle with many varieties of produce to try. You never know what treasures you will find.