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.
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.
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.
‘Tis the season to be merry and wild. We are always experimenting with wild produce in the kitchen and Christmas dinner side dishes are a fun way to use some of your favourite winter greens.
Roasted Pine & Garlic Croquettes
Roasties and Christmas dinner go hand in hand. In Ireland we have every kind of potato imaginable on the plate. From mash to roasties to boiled to everything in between but by far my favourite are the fluffy potato croquettes. This delicious side dish takes a little bit of extra prep but it is worth every minute. Why not give roast potatoes on a bed of pine or spruce needles a try. This is an easy recipe that has all the smells of the holiday season and the tastes of the forest.
Ingredients: Potatoes, Freshly cut Pine tips, Breadcrumbs, 1 Egg, Flour, Oil, Butter and Sea Salt
Instructions: Wash and Par boil your chopped up potato squares. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees. Melt two large spoons of butter in a pan and toss your potatoes into the pan. Lay your pine needles onto the tray. Cover the whole tray if you can. Now carefully place your boiled, buttery potatoes on top. Sprinkle salt and drizzle oil over the top. Enjoy!
Wild Winter Greens
Christmas dinner can often be heavy with stunning, potatoes and all of those carb filled treats. For a light, refreshing side try a wild green salad.
Instructions: Collect your edible winter greens fresh from the land around you. Wash the ground ivy leaves, bittercress, sorrel and dandelion leaves carefully. To prepare the dandelion roots scrub off the dirt and slice into small cubes. Oven bake the roots for 15 minutes. Remove all thorns from your gorse and only use the bright yellow petals. Mix your leaves together, sprinkle the berries, roasted roots and flowers. Add a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.
Pickled Sea Radish and Red Cabbage
If you live near the coast than you will be spoilt for choice with wild green edibles. Sea Radish is one of our favourites as it is available throughout the year. This simple little recipe provides a tangy taste that goes well with your less fragrant vegetables. It takes a few days to pickle so be sure to prepare this one in advance.
Ingredients: Sea Radish pods, curly dock seeds, red cabbage, peppercorns and white wine vinegar.
Instructions: Wash all of the ingredients gently under warm water. Thinly slice up a 1/4 of the red cabbage in strips. Add all of the ingredients to a large jar and cover completely with the white wine vinegar. Close the jar tight and place in the fridge. Allow the pickling to work its magic for a few days. When you have chosen your cheese and wine, take out your wild pickle mix to go with them. This is a super easy, tasty treat to have as a snack at Christmas time. Surprise your guests and add an extra punch of flavour to your cheese board after dinner.
You will be ready for a true festive feast with these delicious Christmas side dishes. For more wild food inspiration you can find more recipes here.
At Orchardsnearme.com we only partner with the experts. From food filled adventures to local foraging experiences, each trip is designed to reflect the true landscape and production in a region. If you are a food and nature lover than there are some mouthwatering foraging experiences in Europe.
A Taste of Ireland: Coast to Coast
We always start at home. As we are based in Ireland we can guarantee a fun time on this action packed food adventure. From coastal foraging along the Wild Atlantic Way to mountain walks to meeting the local historians, every activity on this excursion is unique.
WHEN TO GO: When you visit Ireland at any time of the year you can expect all four seasons in one. However, the tides do need to be considered when planning any coastal foraging adventure. We are planning expert guided tours for April and May 2020. If you want to organise a private group trip outside of these days please get in touch with us directly.
Real foodies will be in heaven on this bespoke foraging experience. This day long tour is packed full of natures delights. You will enjoy learning about the wild produce of Italy, sample pasta making, taste the wines and meet the local experts.
WHEN TO GO: Italy can be extremely hot in the summer months so we are recommending the Spring and Autumn months for guided foraging adventures in Italy.
The untouched beauty of Do Emporda region in Catalonia will leave you wanting more. From famous tapas to orchards bursting with fruits, this area is waiting to be discovered. Visit stunning apple orchards, taste the local wines and meet the fruit producers.
WHEN TO GO: Catalonia is blessed with the beautiful sea breeze from the Mediterranean. Even in the middle of summer if you are by the Costa Brava you should enjoy a nice summer temperature. Any month from March to September is good for this tasty adventure.
Untapped and ready to be explored, Slovenia is rich in nature, making the perfect partner for our team. From those who love to combine outdoor adventure and food filled trails, the Julian Alps is the perfect spot to sip the local wines and get a true taste of outdoor life.
WHEN TO GO: There are snow capped peaks in the North west of Slovenia from December to March each year. From May to October you will enjoy warm weather and perfect conditions for getting outdoors, visiting the local food producers and experiencing the landscapes.
Our friends in the Douro region of Northern Portugal are looking forward to welcoming you to one of the most famous wine regions in Europe. On this unique trip you will have the opportunity to visit an olive farm and several vineyards to get a true flavour of the land.
WHEN TO GO: The Douro Valley experiences warm summers and cold winters. From May to October you will enjoy sunshine, warm winds and the ideal months for witnessing the harvest activities of the region.
Now renowned as the home of Game of Thrones, Croatia is a magical country to visit. From the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic coast to lush waterfalls of the interior, we will connect you with every aspect of nature. Truffles feature heavily in all aspects of this farm-to-table adventure.
WHEN TO GO: From November to April many of the tourist accommodation and facilities close for the winter season. Between May and October you can expect dry, warm weather weather and lots of activity around all of the major towns.
Nothing warms the heart like a hot cup of tea in the winter months. Sitting by the fire with a mug of your favourite wild tea will bring a smile to your evening. We love to forage for wild tea ingredients. From calming chamomile to energy boosting dandelions, there is inspiration everywhere in nature. Here are three of our favourite wild tea recipes to try out at home.
Sweet Rosehip Tea
Rosehips are a ripe winter fruit that contain large amounts of Vitamin C.
This little yellow weed never fails to surprise us. We use the flower heads for tea, starter snacks and additions to our pies. The leaves and root can also be used in your wild dishes. Dandelions contain anti-oxidants and are said to reduce cholesterol and inflammation.
Soothing Yarrow Tea
Yarrow is a relaxing herb. It helps your muscles and improves blood circulation. Note: do not use this herb if you are on other medication or pregnant.