Nature’s Bounty

By Deanne Converse                             This article my not be copied or transferred in any way in whole or in part without the permission of the author. 

Spring 2018

Dandelion microgreens                                                     

In keeping with my all-things dandelion venture this Spring, at the suggestion of an online friend, I decided to try to grow Dandelion microgreens.  We grow fodder and other microgreens on our farm.  So how hard could it be to grow dandelion Microgreens? From the  dandelion seedheads on my place, I managed to collect a quart bag of seed, which also included to tufts that the float the seeds on the breezes.  So the next step is separating the seeds.  I have not done that yet.   

After the work of collecting the seeds, I began to look online to see if dandelion microgreens were actually already a “thing”. That led me to an interesting discovery. Yes, even some seed companies do sell “dandelion” seeds.  But upon closely reading the descriptions, what most seed companies are actually selling as ‘Dandelion” is really Chickory seed.  Chickory is in the Dandelion family. But the common Dandelion’s Latin name is Taraxcum officinale. What most seed companies are actually selling as dandelion is known by the Latin name Cichorium intybus.  If you read the descriptions, that is what is listed.  SO I began to dig deeper.  The only company I found that actually sold common Dandelion seed (Taraxcum officinale) is West Coast Seeds Company. Another interesting fact I found is that common dandelion seed is very, very expensive (even for microgreens).  So I will stick to collecting my own for now.

Keep watching here for a section on growing true dandelion microgreens. Hopefully I will be showing a successful result. I am looking forward to a tray of young, fresh, nutritious, and health supporting dandelion microgreens.

Traditional Scandinavian Dandelion Syrup and Jelly

This recipe makes the best Syrup and jelly.  What does it taste like?  If sunshine could be captured in a jar, this is it!  The closest comparison for its taste is honey.

   This Spring I decided to take advantage of the wonderful natural crop of Dandelions  we were blessed with. There are so many options for making use of the Dandelion plant.  It is a wonderfully nutritious food source, and it has some not-well-known medicinal benefits, and has been used for both for centuries. I find the bright yellow blossoms waving in the breeze a cheerful sight.  But I decided to harvest the blossoms to make an old recipe: Scandinavian Dandelion Syrup and Jelly.  This recipe uses green apples and rhubarb and Dandelion flower petals – the petals of 50 dandelion flowers.

I harvested 150 dandelion flower heads, and began the task of cutting the heads to be able to remove the petals without ending up with the green parts of the sepal ending up in the collection too. I used scissors, and quickly figured out the technique.  Trial and error I discovered that if you cut sort-of close tot he stem, it was possible to then just pee the remaining ring of sepal off the blossom without the sepal falling apart and needing to pick it out of the petals that just fall apart in hand.

This is what the volume of the petals od 150 dandelion flowers looks like.   After collecting these, It was tie to begin preps for the rest of the recipe.  It should be noted that after I had collected at the blossoms in my yard, I wanted to do a second batch.  Since at that time there were not enough new blossoms available, I began collecting and cutting the flower heads as they became available.  I have a Zip-lock bag of these petals in my freezer.

These are the ingredients needed to make one batch of Scandinavian Syrup or jelly. – 3 chopped green apples  – one stalk rhubarb cut, –  petals of 50 dandelion flowers.- one quart water.

The process is to add all these ingredients into a large sauce pan and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

Next step is to pour the whole contents of the pan through a linen cloth to strain.

Since I made the batch in the photos above close to a triple batch, the resulting strained liquid in the photo above, (on right) is much more than one quart.  The photo on the right above, shows the pulp left over from straining and squeezing the cooked mass.

The next step is to weigh the resulting liquid and add the same weight of sugar as the weight of the liquid.  Not having a scale, I used the same ratios as all the other syrup recipes I had been making and used a 1:1 ratio. Boil the liquid with the added sugar, stirring constantly, with a watchful eye, because you do not want to overheat the liquid an change its color. Boil until it thickens to consistency you want.  You will have to quickly cool samples as it cooks down, so you will know when it is the thickness you

want for syrup or jelly. The apple in the recipe acts as a natural pectin.

Once it is cooked down to the desired consistency, pour it into prepared jars., and you are done.

This is very delicious!  As a syrup it is wonderful on pancakes, and oven roasted vegetables.  It makes a great jelly as well.

 

Spring 2016 is upon us in all its blooming glory.  What better way to usher in the Maple Blossoms Freshly pickedseason of new growth, than to feature some of the first wild edibles?  Featuring Maple Blossoms, all species of which are edible.  Each has a different taste.  On our place, the Big Leaf Maple Tree ( Acer macrophyllum) are the first to awaken in the Spring.  I picked and had fun eating some of these beautiful delicate flowers.   They can be used in making syrups, or many other ways. I currently have some pickling in my refrigerator. Here is what else did with them on our farm:

Maple Blossoms in salad with romaine and sliced brussels sproutsIn a salad with lettuce and sliced Brussels sprouts.

On crackers with locally produced goat cheese, a new favorite Maple Blossoms with goat cheese and crackerssnack for me!

 

 

 

Maple blossoms batter dipped with pancake and syrupAnd finally, I battered some and ate them with pancakes and maple syrup!  Yum!Maple blossoms batter dipped

 

 

Fall 2015 we are featuring Vine Maple Leaves! This is the time of the year they begin to decorate the landscape with a fiery display of reds, oranges and shades of yellow!  Still, it is a great time of year to pick the smallest of the leaves which are still green.  Yes, they are edible!  Actually, maple leaves are a street vendor snack popular in some areas of Japan, and currently specialty faire at Fried maple leavesa restaurant in Canada.  Fresh-picked, and then sometimes soaked for months in salt brine or pickled , they are then always battered and fried….I opt for skipping the brine or pickling.  Fresh Picked vine maple leaves and immediately battered and fried them.  The small leaves (1-3 inches across) are fully cooked so that even the delicate stem is a delight to eat.  There is not a lot of flavor, but they lend themselves well to decorate a plate, or  be used with dip or with salsas or pestos.   The photo shows my leaves (before and after cooking) along with my own recipe of blueberry-rosemary pesto. Please do your own research before using any leaves for your food. I have a dendrology background and can easily identify maple leaves.

Summer 2014 we are featuring Purslane,  a plant most people tend to grumble about and yank out of flowerbeds with gusto.  To some it is a weed. To those who know its value, it is a natural nutrient-packed, flavorful powerhouse!  Great in salad, on sandwiches.  It is excellent in smoothies, and can make them DSCF1145thickened, the same if added to soups/stews. It is a succulent, and can grow in the worst of soils, and is even found in cities growing in the cracks in sidewalks. Due to its interesting photosynthesis process, if it is picked in the A.M. it tends to be sour.  If it is picked later in the day it is sweeter.

Of all the leafy plants, it is the highest in Omega-3’s and contains lots of vitamin  A and B, C and E. It grows wild, but to be sure we have plenty on hand when we want it, we are growing it in pots and in our aquaponics system. I like to snack on the leaves, but my favorite is to use it to make thickened low-calorie smoothies!DSCF1142

DSCF1164

We also feature purslane in our pasta salad made with our own Peashoot pesto, fresh peashoots, lemon cucumber, purslane, tomato, and kale grown on our farm, and harvested from our aquaponics system.

 

May 2014 Spruce Tips

 

 

Spring 2014 we are featuring our Spruce  and Douglas-fir tips.  A decidedly true Pacific Northwest fare.  What do you do with this?  Eat it raw for a tangy vitamin C boost. But for fun we make syrup, jelly and pickles. Harvest season is just a brief window in Spring when the tender tips of new growth on the spruce and Douglas fir are May 2014 tips on Douglas Fir treejust showing up. We manage the harvest of this crops from our trees with care for their health. My Special Uses Silviculture  course work at the U of W  comes in handy here. Spruce tips have been eaten for centuries by many May 2014 Douglas Fir Tips Close upcultures.  What do they taste like? …citrusy?  …hum… bursting with a tart, fruity flavor and fresh essence that is quite unlike anything else… you’ll just have to try some!

 

Spring 2012 and 2013 we were able to harvest a huge crop of edible Fern Fiddleheads.  There is a brief window for harvesting, completely dependent on cropped-img_0744.jpgenvironmental factors.  A watchful eye on the forest floor yields a delicious reward!  Fern fiddleheads are delicious prepared many ways. Pickeling allows us to be able to enjoy the harvest all year.  A word of warning: do not pick fern fiddleheads unless you know what you are doing.  Buy them from us, or another reliable source, if you are not familiar with harvesting fern fiddleheads. Proper kitchen preparation is also a must. Our photo shows an example from our 2012 harvest, including native salal bushes (lower right, in photo) that promise a later harvest of bountiful berries!  We are careful in our harvesting methods to protect our naturally occurring future fern crop.

 

 

 

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