Dandy Lions

Lockdown on the motu has turned a lot of our gardens into meadows instead of the perfect robotic Stepford Wives idea of the idyllic garden. Buttercups, cleavers, clovers, the pesky jasmine, wisteria climbing the tallest trees and dandelions are raising their heads and claiming their rightful place in your perfect lawn.

Our unkempt gardens contain many weeds, but these plants may also contain nutritional, medicinal and culinary benefits to help keep you and your family healthy.

Our grandparents knew how to use an enormous variety of plants for health and well-being and it’s time to get back to basics when it comes to health.

Chowing down on dandelions mightseem unconventional, but everything from the leaves to the roots can be eaten. They’re also brimming with a laundry list of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.

In terms of nutritional content, the dandelion patch in your backyard can join the rankings with the rest of your vegetable garden.

From root to flower, dandelion are highly nutritious plants, loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Dandelion greens can be eaten cooked or raw and serve as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins.

What’s more, dandelion greens provide a substantial amount of several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Simply think of all of the mass-produced bottles of multi-vitamins you may never need to use again.

Given the abundance of dandelions in the wild – and sometimes annoyingly in those beautifully manicured lawns – it might make more sense to harvest your own instead of paying for expensive, plastic-packaged greens at the supermarket.

However, make sure you’re plucking up plants where you know there hasn’t been any herbicide or pesticide use. It’s best to stay away from places like motorways, areas which have been sprayed and also be mindful of dog-walking areas which may have been used for doggy ablutions.

Dandelion leaves have a unique flavor, both earthy and bitter – it’s similar to endive or radicchio. The earlier you pick them, the less bitter they will be, which is why many people in Italy pick ones that emerge in early spring to use raw in salads.

If you are big into brunching, dandelion leaf quiche is perfect for a late morning snack when friends are visiting. Simply take your tried and tested Edmonds Cookery Book ‘Basic Quiche’ recipe and, instead of the three rashers of bacon, add a large handful of chopped dandelion leaves for a powerful, vegetarian iron-boost.

And, if you want to wow your guests with your very own Heston Blumental moment, simply grind up the leaves to make dandelion pesto, perfect for a light summer pasta which affords you to say, ‘Oh, just something I just plucked from the garden’ for the ultimate foodie boast.

Of course, the magical stories and rhymes of weeds still stay with us. Here’s the dandelion’s rhyme.

See my leaves with tooth-like edges;
Blow my clocks to tell the time;
See me flaunting by the hedges,
In the meadow, in the lane,
Gay and naughty in the garden;
Pull me up—I grow again,
Asking neither leave nor pardon.
Sillies, what are you about
With your spades and hoes of iron?
You can never drive me out—
Me, the dauntless Dandelion!
The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker © 2021