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Dandelion Capers (vegan, gluten-free)

Add a little zing to your salad, pasta, or other savory dish with these flavorful and easy to make dandelion capers!


dandelion recipe

DANDELION 


While dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) are a common sight in many places in the world, many of us don't know they are actually a very special medicinal plant. Did you know that every part of the dandelion plant, including the flowers, leaves, and even the root, are both edible and medicinal?


Not only do they look like little balls of sunshine, but dandelions also have a strong connection with the sun. Their bright yellow flowers open up when the first light appears in the morning, and close again in the evening when the light dissipates. Dandelions are one of the first plants to develop flowers in spring, and one of the last to return to dormancy in the winter. You might notice that dandelions flower more abundantly in the spring and fall than during the summer. This is because they prefer cooler weather.


Dandelions have been part of many stories and beliefs throughout human history. People saw them as a symbol of love, hope, and the coming of summer. In some places they were called called “fairy clocks” because their flowers open and close in a predictable way.


In some traditional belief systems, the dandelion is seen as a symbol for growth and transformation – after all, a few dandelion flowers can easily turn into hundreds of seeds that can travel to and populate new places. Some believed that if you blew on a dandelion seed head, the seeds would turn into fairies who flew on the wind and would grant you a wish. Perhaps as a child you did this and made a wish too!


dandelion recipe

Every part of the dandelion plant is edible, and filled with nutrients. While their leaves can taste slightly bitter and spicy (which gives them unique health benefits), dandelion petals have a sweet and delicate flavor. This makes the flowers an excellent addition to sweet drinks, desserts, and snacks. The root can be used to make drinks and incorporated into various recipes. The buds don't have a strong flavor when eaten raw, but we're about to change that when making this recipe for capers!


Dandelion is a versatile medicinal plant that has various health benefits. Supporting blood sugar regulation, healthy blood pressure, digestion, liver- and bone health are only a few of the plant's special gifts. The flowers contain mild pain relieving properties. This means they can help relieve aches, pains, and sore muscles. They can also be to treat skin irritation and other topical issues.


Dandelions not only helps our health, they support the wider ecosystem. They are one of the best insect nectar plants, offering an important food source for many types of flying insects. Different bird species (like gold finches) like to eat the seeds. Dandelion's long taproot draws nutrients from deeper soil layers to the surface, making these available for other nearby plant species. The roots also help loosen compacted earth, which helps to create a micro-climate that is friendly to earthworms and other life that further supports the health of the soil.


FINDING DANDELION


Dandelions grow in many places in the world (on all seven continents, even Antarctica!). Therefore, it likely won't be difficult for you to find some where you live! They have a great ability to adapt to different conditions and climates, no matter how challenging. Dandelions can grow at altitudes ranging from sea level to 3.2 kilometers (10,500 feet), in open meadows, gardens, disturbed areas, and parks. You can even find them in the city growing between tiny cracks in the sidewalk. We humans often create various challenges for dandelions, like herbicides and lawn mowers, but thanks to their adaptable and tenacious nature, they often manage to survive nonetheless.


While dandelions like the coolness of the shade, they will still do well in hotter locations with direct sunlight. Although they prefers healthy, loose, and nutrient-dense soil, they can also find their way when the soil is rocky, dry, or compacted. As you can see, dandelions truly offer us an inspiring example when it comes to adaptability and perseverance.


dandelion recipe

Dandelions can easily be identified by their yellow blooms and their basal leaves (leaves that grow from the bottom of the stem). Dandelion flowers grow on individual hollow stems that don't have any branches. The leaves are lobed and produce a milky sap when they tear.


In Europe and the United States there are a few wild plants that have similar features to dandelions. These plants are not toxic, and even have some of their own unique benefits. This makes foraging for dandelions relatively easy and safe, although it is always important to make sure you have found the right plant. Two dandelion lookalikes are Cat's Ear (Hypochaeris radicata), which has stems that are hollow but branch, and Sow Thistle (Sonchus spp.), which can have prickly spines, and has a stem that's not hollow and has leaves growing on it.


HARVESTING AND PROCESSING DANDELION BUDS


Whether when working with dandelions or anything else in nature, it’s important to walk softly on the Earth and to forage with care. We are guests and receivers of gifts from wild lands and forests, so please consider how you can do this respectfully and only take as much as you need. When you harvest dandelion flowers, maybe you could consider to, in your own way, offer a small gesture of gratitude to the plants that have so generously given you part of themselves.


dandelion recipe

While the dandelion season runs from spring until the end of fall, the window to forage for dandelion buds is shorter, and is optimal at the start of spring. The first buds that appear on are what you are after. They will appear very close to the ground in the heart of the plant. When you have found dandelion plants, the timing of harvest is crucial, because you need to get very young buds that don't have a stem developed yet. The smallest flower buds will generally have the most delicate texture and flavor. Buds with stems that are already forming into flowers are not very suitable for making capers since they will be soft and filled with fluffy petals.


The flower buds can be harvested by cutting them off with a sharp knife. A good size bud is the size of a pea or slightly larger. To give the plant respect and the best chance to develop, only harvest one or two buds from each plant, and leave others so that they can turn into beautiful dandelion flowers!


dandelion recipe

VISUAL GUIDE TO DANDELION CAPERS RECIPE


After learning a lot about dandelion, it's now time to make some capers! You can follow along with the simple steps below, and at the bottom of this page you will find the full dandelion capers recipe.




DANDELION CAPERS RECIPE



Disclaimer: Every year there are people that are poisoned or experience other negative health effects from eating inedible wild plants or mushrooms that resemble edible species. For this reason it's essential to ensure proper species identification and to consult multiple quality sources for doing this. It's also important to always check and follow all local foraging regulations before you harvest anything in nature.



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