We are starting to look at dandelion, clovers, and nettles as weeds that are healthy for us. They have so much medicine for us that has been forgotten. Now it’s time to bring them back into our diet.
With a name like Dandelion & Quince, it was screaming to be picked up, held, and cherished. I can’t explain it though I sense some of you out there feel the same. About books, in general. About cookbooks, even though I’m not known for cooking. This one, though (feel the covers and pages), is a heavy duty hardback, and as Alice Waters calls it “a beautiful tribute.”
Michelle McKenzie is a “vegetable cheerleader” with a degree in nutrition and a minor in biochemistry. For her first cookbook (she has another one on the way), she has put together a wonderful resource for a beginner home-cook and and someone who wants to go beyond the simple salads. That’s me. From the title, you already know it’s an exploration of more than the usual suspects in the vegetable world and that makes it fun, intriguing, and challenging.
Yes, there are 150+ recipes (I didn’t count) and 35 plant profiles (I counted), with a section dedicated to “Weeds We Want”. By the way, it’s not a vegetarian cookbook.
For me, it’s the perfect way to start spring, with recipes using weeds that are healthy for us! Burdock, nettles, and you guessed it, dandelion. These are all supportive of the liver, which is related to Spring and for detoxification.
I didn’t know burdock is known as gobo in Japanese, which made for a confusing conversation at the local Asian grocery shop. I first came across this root as a capsule for a detox, and as a supplement to my dogs’ diet.
Why does Michelle McKenzie love it? “I was taken by the root’s firm texture sweet smell of fresh earth; and nutty, herbaceous flavour.”
The recipes she has for this wild weed are Poached Chicken and Burdock Broth, Braised Burdock, Burdock Fritters, and Burdock and Mushrooms on Danish Rye. She also adds this root to her Red Clover Blossom Tea.
We’ve all heard chicken soup for the sick. Michelle McKenzie supercharges her version with burdock to build her immunity. The Braised Burdock works as a standalone dish or can be added into other dishes. You can swap out your morning pancakes with the Burdock Fritters, which are made with cilantro, chickpea flour, fenugreek, and onions. I’d imagine the burdock and mushroom spread would taste delicious on any open-face sandwiches, quinoa, and or just on its own as a quick snack.
Do you find nettles’ flavour, “tasting of chlorophyll and minerals”, as intense as Michelle McKenzie does? She suggests adding fat and acidity so that “they quiet and nourish. They can feel both healthy and indulgent, a lovely dichotomy.” Blanching them in salted water apparently makes nettles “almost as versatile as cooked spinach.” You can also drink the blanching water, which can be chilled, for its minerals.
If you are gathering and foraging nettles be sure to wear gloves, because they are called stinging nettles for a reason. Nettles has numerous benefits according to GreenMedInfo. Nettle tea is an easy way to enjoy this weed. The Medical Medium also suggests cool nettle tea to help with gingivitis.
The three recipes from Dandelion & Quince are Nettle Soup with Whipped Crème Fraîche and Chive Blossoms, Nettles with Coconut Oil and Mustard Seeds, and Nettle Sandwich.
Dandelion grows wild and many people treat it as a weed, even while it is very nutritious. Both the root and leaves are used. Dandelion greens provide the bitter so sorely missing in our palate. Bitter is medicine.
You can explore this wonderful Nature’s gift with these recipes – Baby Dandelion Salad with Fresh Figs and Pancetta, Eggs Bakes with Dandelion and Cream, Meatballs, Summer Sunday Sauce, and Dandelion Gremolata, and Semolina Bread with Dandelion and Green Olives. New word for me – gremolata. That’s an herb condiment.
Dandelion & Quince is full of wonderful and do-able recipes. I love that Michelle McKenzie brings the more unusual vegetables, including weeds, into the culinary world. Weeds have a lot of medicine for us; yes, these weeds are healthy for us so be sure to eat more of them!