There are so many treats on our doorsteps we are so unaware of, especially for their culinary or medicinal uses. I for one have been trying to get a lot better at hedgerow and woodland foraging. However, here we have two of the very easiest hedgerow treats, which most people will be able to identify from as early as childhood due to the nature of them.
The first being the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinal) which you will know for it’s beautiful sunshine resembling flower head or as a child it’s seed head, most will have blown the seed and made a wish? Folklore as a child was, you don’t pick dandelions as they’ll make you piss the bed!! There is some truth in that, however it won’t quite make you piss the bed, unless you turn it into beer and perhaps drink too may! Dandelions are a natural diurectic and help flush the body of toxins by cleansing especially the kidneys. It also improves digestion and is rich in many minerals and vitamins including iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamins A,C and B-complex. The distinctive leaves are what derives the common name from the French “dent-du-lion” meaning “Lion’s Teeth” because of the sharp edged leaves.
The second being Nettles (Urtica dioica) which from the tender age anyone who came into contact with could then identify due to its sting, once stung twice shy, or is that bitten, either way you were cautious. However, aside from their sting, they happen to be a nutritional powerhouse, high in minerals, vitamins C and E, protein and antioxidants. The leaves have a serated edge and grow opposite each other in pairs on a tall straight stem. When harvesting you only want to take the top 4 young leaves. Folklore has it the nettles can treat rheumatism and arthritis, which involved whipping the joints with nettles for their sting which is said to increase circulation, ermm no thanks!
All you need to harvest these goodies is a bag or basket, a pair of gloves for obvious reasons and some scissors or secateurs and neither if you’re feeling badass and fancy improving the circulation in your fingers, nature doesn’t judge so whatever is accessible not fashionable and we’re off.
You will need about two big handfuls of nettle tips (don’t literally use your hands as measures) and remember just the top four young leaves. Butterflies love nettles so always leave plenty of the plant behind for our beneficial friends too, plus we’ll be foraging more again soon. For the dandelions we want again two handfuls of leaves and if the flower heads are available take these two, I could only find 3 flowers in my garden the rest had gone to seed and wasn’t venturing down the street as we’re in lockdown (FUCK YOU COVID-19) sorry had to let that out!
2 Handfuls of dandelion leaves
3-5 Dandelion flowers
2 Handfuls of young nettle tips
1 Large red onion sliced
1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
8 tbsp of Gram (chickpea) flour of plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp black onion seeds
1 tbsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of garam masala
pinch of chilli powder
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of vinegar
Reserved nettle liquid
- Wash your nettles in a colander, then place in a pan and boil for 3-5 mins to cook out the sting. Once cooked, drain, reserving the liquid then dip in cold water and drain off again squeezing away any excess liquid.
- Wash the dandelions and flower heads. dry off the leaves with a press of a clean tea towel and leave the flower heads upside down for any excess liquid to run off.
- Peel and slice one red or brown onion into 1cm slices and separate the slices. Chop the dandelions and nettles roughly inch pieces is just fine.
- Combine the leaves, onions and add the peas and flower head petals to the dish giving a good stir to combine.
- In a large frying pan or wok heat some cooking oil, you need enough for deep frying, around 4 inch in depth.
- In a large bowl add the spices, flour, salt, pepper and bicarbonate of soda, stir with a whisk to combine. Then add the vinegar and start adding the reserved nettle liquid until it resembles a batter. Your looking for the consistency of pouring cream.
- Add the leaves, peas and onion mixture to the batter and stir to combine.
- Once the oil is hot add a few spoonful’s of the batter mixture to the pan and cook for around 1-2 minutes turning if necessary to ensure even cooking.
- Once the pakoras are golden brown and crisp, remove with a spatula and transfer to a plate with some kitchen towel on for the excess oil to drain off.
- Serve with a mint riata or mango chutney and fresh salad or alongside your favourite curry.
There you have it. Simple easy foraged goodness that’s absolutely delicious. Let me know if you try this recipe by tagging me on Instagram @bohoraspberry with your thoughts.