Dandelion: the beauty of weeds, respectful harvesting & a recipe for mead

There are so many “empty” fields and meadows in France (at least in this area!) I feel like there are many special plants that like to grow in open meadows or at their edges, and I had a hard time finding them in New England (maybe it was just me). I wonder if the plethora here is partially due to the long presence of people farming & cultivating the land here. Anyway, all this to say I found a motherload of dandelion yesterday, more than I’ve ever seen!

Important side note: dandelion and many other “weeds” are often found growing along roadsides, in lawns sprayed with toxic chemicals, and other polluted areas you wouldn’t want to gather from. Many of these plants grow in these areas to help heal the soil from pollution, by absorbing it into the plant and rendering it into something not toxic anymore (or something like that—Japanese knotweed is a great example) OR by drawing nutrients from very deep down up into the top soil, making it fertile again. Not to mention that these “weeds” folks often want to eradicate are usually edible, packed with nutrients, or medicinal. Usually all three! Okay, that ends my annual “please don’t spray the dandelions speech”. Also, if you’re gathering wild plants, it’s really important to consider

  1. if the land/the plant could be polluted

  2. if the plant is endangered or at-risk, and if the patch is big enough to survive/thrive after you gather from it

  3. do you have permission to harvest off this land?

This final one is certainly tricky for folks like me who don’t have any land to their name. My personal thoughts on the matter are that when I harvest, I do so mindfully and as carefully and intentionally and respectfully as possible. (And in gratitude). I feel comfortable with doing so. Okay, tangent over.

Usually with dandelion, I go for the leaves to use in salads & stir frys, but this abundance of flowers inspired me, and I’m making dandelion mead, beer, and an infused flower oil for skincare.

Dandelion mead: separate the petals from the green bits (we saved the green bits to braise for dinner—yum!), cover with water and add raw honey (roughly 1 part honey to 6 parts water). Once it’s active, strain out petals & let it ferment!

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