Even here in the Netherlands seems like spring is here to stay. The fields are full of dandelion flowers and young nettles and that’s exactly what I went to gather this Saturday.
Most likely our whole neighborhood believes now that I am a witch as I had at least 10 people look at me very suspiciously and 4 who actually stopped their walk to ask me how on earth do I manage to gather nettles with my bare hands. It’s magic. But not really. Maybe a little bit.
How to harvest stinging nettles
It’s pretty easy. I know it sounds really hippie dippy but all you have to do is respect the plant. Approach carefully, gently and rush the process. The secret is to observe the little hair on the nettle leaf. If you use two fingers to catch the leaf making sure to go along with the hair direction, there will be no sting. If you try to rush then most likely you will get stung.
Basically all you have to do is use a pair of scissors or kitchen shears to cut the upper part of the nettle, while holding on a leaf, so that you can grab the piece you cut and put it in your bag. Cut only the upper 6-7 leaves, the youngest ones, as these ones are the most tender. Also note that if the stinging nettles have flowers on them, they are already to old to be eaten.
I gathered about half a medium-sized tote bag of nettles and only got stung once. If you get stung, you can rub a common mallow leaf and you will find instant relief 🙂
How to harvest dandelion flowers
That’s much easier. The only thing you need to be careful about is to cut just the flower and as little of the stem as possible. In the picture above that flower has a waaaay to long stem. That’s ok. You can just trim stems off before cooking. They are a bit bitter, that’s why you want them out of your plate. In general though, if you put your middle and index fingers right bellow the flower and pull, there will be no stem attached. Keep in mind that every single part of the dandelion part is edible. However, once the plant flowers, the leaves are a bit too bitter and not that tender. That’s why I only harvested the flowers this time.
Fried dandelion flowers
- Dandelion flowers (washed)
- 2/3 cup white flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- frying oil
- Mix the flour with the salt in a bowl and slowly add water till you have a runny dough.
- Heat a non-stick pan and add a bit of cooking oil.
- Dip the dandelion flowers in the dough one by one and fry them from both sides.
- They brown pretty quickly so keep an eye on them.
I found a similar recipe online while I was looking for things you can do with dandelion flowers. I think that recipe had milk in the dough and syrup as well so it was a pancake-like version. I will try that out next time too.
Steamed stinging nettles salad
N. was very very very skeptical about this one. In fact he made sure that I took a bite first and even waited a few minutes to make sure my tongue wouldn’t swell. It didn’t. Of course not. People have been eating nettles for thousands of years and for good reason. Not only do they taste delicious, but they are packed with iron as well.
- 3-4 cups stinging nettles, thoroughly washed.
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- olive oil
- Steam the nettles for about 10 minutes or until tender.
- Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.
- You can add salt and pepper to taste but I found they have such a rich flavor they don’t really need that.
They are a great side-dish for the fried dandelion flowers and go well with mustard.
As I had quite a few dandelion flowers left, I decided to use them in a risotto too. I snipped the bottom part and only kept the petals for this recipe.
Dandelion flower risotto
- 1 full cup risotto rice (I admit we only had 1/2 cup of risotto rice left and I added sushi rice. Worked great!)
- 4-5 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 full cup dandelion flower petals
- fresh herbs of your choice. I am growing basil, coriander and chives on our balcony so that’s what I used
- a bit of olive oil
- lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- nutritional yeast (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil some water. You will need to slowly add it to the risotto as it cooks. I used the water that was left in the pot from the steamed nettles, as it was packed with nutrients and I found it was a shame to let it go to waste.
- In a pan heat the olive oil and stir in the rice until translucent.
- Slowly add in a bit of water/nettle water. For a risotto, you only add extra water when the first batch is absorbed. So you should keep doing that till the rice is tender and creamy.
- Add in the sun dried tomatoes, chopped up, the dandelion petals and the fresh herbs. Add some extra water too,
- Keep adding water and stirring and a bit before it’s done, add in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
- When it’s done, turn of the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast, if you are using it. It gives a cheesy flavor to the risotto and an abundance of B vitamins too!
One last tip: You will find that dandelions love to grow next to motorways and busy streets. Please make an effort to search for an actual field, where they don’t absorb as much pollution/dog pee/ dust etc.
Have fun with your wild foraging!