This time of year, my whole being begins to whisper, and eventually scream “wild greens!” Like many, I’m blessed with yearlong access to produce at the grocery store. But by early spring, I crave the freshness of my garden and the pungent tang of wild-gathered foods. Strolling in the veggie section the other day, I overheard two women speaking: “Oh I just can’t wait for fresh tomatoes!” This urge, this desire for vital foods is a near universal human trait, and one worth cultivating.
There is real risk with losing connection to that instinct. The culture of quick fix – processed foods, of bringing produce from countries and continents away, and of growing our foods in nutrient-poor soil means that while we technically have access to fruits and vegetables year-round, we are essentially eating in a perpetual winter. Of course, along with this food winter, many folks in the modern world have work or living situations that force them into a constant winter of the body as well (desk jobs, schools, etc.). The medicine of regular human movement and play is missing.
There is so much in the way of social and agricultural change that needs to happen on a massive scale to fix this, which is both intimidating and likely a long time coming. As a pragmatist naturalist, I have my own local solutions for combating this modern lethargy of body and spirit. Eat wild weeds. Lots of them. However you can squeeze them in. Not only does the food tend to be more vital, but the process allows you the kind of connection to landscape that humans have evolved with since the beginning of our species. Gathering plant foods connects you very literally to your world, engendering love in the way of mothers everywhere – the Earth is feeding you.
There are so many ways to explore this practice. Starting simple and slow, with easily identifiable herbs is a good way to go, which is in part why I love Dandelion so much. The bright, antioxidant-rich flowers are easy to identify, insanely abundant and absolutely everywhere. The recipe below is for Dandelion fritters using the flowers, but you can modify this recipe to include just about any edible wild flower or green that tickles your fancy.
Savory Dandelion Fritters Recipe
Ingredients – Makes 6-8 fritters
- 2 cups Dandelion flowers. NOTE: remove the receptacle if you’d like a sweeter fritter, keep it on for a more savory dish. The receptacle is full of the milky sesquiterpenes mainly responsible for the bitter taste of dandy. If you’re into the bitterness, that’s great, leave that receptacle on. If you don’t know what I mean by the receptacle, check out the picture here.
- 1 cup oil (Coconut or Olive oil is what I’ve mainly used, but butter and lard work too!)
- ¾ cup rice flour, or Bob’s GF baking mix. I’m personally unable to do the whole gluten thing, so this is what I use, but don’t let that limit you. Regular wheat flour will work just fine.
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup Hemp milk (or milk of your choice, or water if that’s what you’ve got)
- ¼ cup applesauce
- Spices: Wild Oregano, Garlic, Black Pepper and Thyme. I add these spices to taste. Usually 1 tsp. total of spices is plenty to make this size batch of fritters plenty flavorful!
- In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
- Add the Hemp milk and applesauce, plus a few table spoons of oil. Mix in the Dandelion flowers. You want your mix to be the consistency of cake batter, thick, but still easily pourable.
- Put your skillet on medium heat until the pan sizzles when you drop a bit of water onto it. Turn the pan down to low-medium heat, then coat the entire pan with a layer of oil (if your oil is smoking, your pan is too hot – clean out the now oxidized oil and add a new layer).
- Spoon about ¼ cup of batter into the pan for each fritter, spreading each fritter out until its about ¼ inch thick (THIS IS KEY! If you’re fritters are too thick, they can end up burnt on the outside, undercooked on the inside).
- Let the fritters cook on one side for 3-5 minutes. With a spatula, check the underside of each fritter – you want them to be a deep golden brown before you flip them.
- Flip your fritters and let them cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes. The fritters are done when the batter is crumbly all the way through (beware the gooey center, with its bellyache inducing properties).
- Remove your beautiful fritters from the pan. When you’re ready to make your next panful, make sure to add another plentiful layer of oil to the pan. This is important – its easy to use too little oil and end up with an intense amount of batter stuck to the pan!
- Once you’ve cooked all the fritters you’d like, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and serve.
Kat Mackinnon is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritionist, as well as a certified Bach flower essences practitioner, through the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism. She is also a Registered Herbalist through the American Herbalists Guild. She currently serves as the CSCH Rocky Mountain Field Botany Course Director, as well as being faculty and student services coordinator for the Fundamentals and Advanced programs at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism.
Kat has her own clinical practice and runs an endeavor, Meet the Green, through which she teaches classes on herbalism and primitive skills. She also has a blog, Discover the Green, on botany, herbal medicine, and any other information on plants she finds interesting.
Though a transplant from the East Coast, Kat has a passion for working with the herbs nearest to her. Having studied forestry at Northern Arizona University, the plants, animals, and incredible harsh beauty of the Southwest are one of the great loves of her life. Between teaching and working, she spends her time wildcrafting and running in the mountains, gardening in the lowlands, and medicine making in between. Her other interests include art, primitive skills, gardening, and generally geeking out on the natural world.