For the last six weeks the most common thing we kept on saying every day was how thankful we are that we live in the countryside. Chatting with friends from all over the world, where most of them live in the cities, we have come to a final conclusion, that we wouldn’t change our spot with them ever. Even before I was always happy to return back home from all of my travels. Back to green, back to birds singing, back to the unpolluted air and pastures full of flowers. They always filled me up with new energy that I needed for the upcoming adventures. Right now I am realising, going to nature every day is my secret medicine. It revives my soul, helps my wild spirit, which always seeks for new discoveries and feeds me with optimism.
I always remember how I used to go picking up wildflowers with my grandfather and how my grandparent’s home was always full of drying flowers and secret bottles and jars of syrups that were home-made. My grandma used to say that everything you really need for health you can find in nature. “For every illness, a flower grows,” is a common saying in Slovenia. When I was a kid I loved going with them, but growing up into teenage years and into adulthood it kind of lost its charm. There were too many other things that were on my mind. But when life became hectic, lately I discovered, I am going back to what my grandparents did. It is usually a lot more fun when I have a friend, who re-introduced this charm to me, with me and we can be on those pastures for hours on end. Since we are still quarantined, outing with a friend will need to wait for a while but family can always join and that is what we have been doing lately. For the last couple of months Slovenia has had splendid weather. It felt like nature is giving us a patch with whom we can heal our wounds, caused by covid-19. So we started collecting some of the first flowers for our herbal tea, that will be in the making pretty much till the end of the summer. Sometimes this tea has over twenty different kinds of flowers and plants inside at the end of the picking season and once you open a glass jar in the middle of the winter, it feels like all of the summer pastures are right there with you again. Primroses, violets, daisies, nettle, wild strawberry leaves… this is what we started with. But still waiting for many more to spring up when we go more into the summer. The first flowers and plants are the cleansers, then we get the aroma and the last ones close to the fall are the healers. It is interesting that this same plants and flowers do exactly the same to the soil as well. Getting it cleansed, beautifying it and then getting it ready for the winter’s harsh times.
Among the healing plants that Slovenes love the most is also dandelion. Latin name for it is Taraxacum and is native to Eurasia and North America, in Europe we refer to it as wildflower. What is interesting about it is that for many people, dandelions are just weeds. But we should not deny the fact that dandelions are edible in its entirety, everything from roots that we use for starch or even for coffee, to leaves that we eat in a salad or make a pesto out of it, to flowers that we dry for herbal tea, eat as dessert or make them into a syrup. The common name dandelion comes from french dent-de-lion, meaning lion’s tooth because of the shape of the green leaves. In Slovenia we also call it “the egger” (jajčar), because we love to eat the green leaves with eggs and potatoes. It is probably one of the most nutritious salads that you can eat in the beginning of the spring, but besides all Slovenians and a few regions in Italy, you rarely find people making it. For us it is the first sign of spring, you see most ladies with plastic bags kneeling down in the middle of the fields picking something up. Sometimes you see the kids running around, pretending they are helping, but the job is still mostly done by the ladies. When the leaves are picked, the work is not done. Because you have to wash and wash and wash the leaves to get any potential dirt out. When the leaves are ready you just add some cooked potatoes, hard boiled eggs, some onion and garlic, olive oil and vinegar, and voila – you have a healthy meal, full of iron. It helps with any gallbladder and liver diseases, works against anaemia, it cleanses our organism, helps with dieting and against cellulite. And it is super tasty!
When spring becomes even warmer the green leaves get the decoration. This is the sign, that leaves are no longer good for the salad, but we can move on to a beautiful yellow flower that decorates most of our fields. Ladies that were picking the leaves before usually comment how come that they didn’t see that dandelion before, when they were picking it. Flowers can be picked for herbal tea, we can put them into beer-batter and stir fry them and have them as a dessert or we can make a healthy dandelion syrup, which is helping with our digestion and supports our immune system for the upcoming winter. Just yesterday we picked enough flowers to make a wonderful syrup. This is the recipe I have used and if you stumble upon some of this yellow beauties, you can do it yourself as well:
- 200 yellow flowers
- 2 oranges, peeled and sliced up
- 1 lemon, peeled and sliced up,
- 600 ml water
- pinch of thyme
All of this ingredients you put into a pot and cook on small temperature for about 35-40 minutes. When you feel like all of the fluids went out, you have to drain the contents thru cloth, then add 1 kg of sugar and stir till it melts and your syrup is done. Sterilise the bottles with hot water before pouring the syrup in. Enjoy in the winter months!
Dandelion is not just a wildflower and it definitely doesn’t deserve to be called weeds. It is a plant full of health, in our country it is even a weather predictor – once the yellow flowers start closing themselves up, the rain is not too far away. And when the beautiful flowers turn themselves into seed-heads, children love to play with them. I remember another saying from the days of my youth: ”Who ever is able to blow the complete seed-head away with a single blow, will have fortune in love.”
Now quick, go to the fields, while the seed-heads are still there!