Walking along the bike track on the Pleiße river one afternoon I spotted a family getting off their bikes, and heading into the knee-deep grass to search for something. No, it wasn’t the dog’s ball, and this time it wasn’t mushrooms either. They were collecting wild greens.
Flicking through my book on wild foods in Germany, and a library book of recipes from the farming women of Sachsen, I decided it was time to taste what the bike track could offer me.
Löwenzahn, that is the common dandelion, was the place to start. I had once distrustingly nibbled a leaf as a child after my mum told me they were edible, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. The pretty red clover flowers were tempting too.
Encouragingly the book didn’t describe any deadly plants that look similar to dandelions, and simply suggested that if the sap and leaves irritate your hands they are likely to do the same to your digestion. It’s also important to wash any wild greens thoroughly before you eat them.
Dandelions are a little bitter, so they taste better eaten mixed with other greens, and are particularly good with starchy or creamy foods. They go well with potato salads, yoghurty salad dressings and eggs.
I made the yoghurt dressing with Bautz’ner Senf, a mustard made in East Germany. The locals love it so much that they buy it in 1 litre buckets, and apparently eat twice as much mustard per capita as people who live in the west. The prize for the most local ingredient in this recipe still goes to the dandelions though.
150g dandelion leaves
2 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup yoghurt (homemade yoghurt method)
1 tablespoon seedy mustard
Red clover flowers to garnish
Wash your dandelion leaves and clover flowers thoroughly, and allow them to dry.
Combine the yoghurt and mustard. You may need to add a tablespoon of milk or oil to thin your dressing to the desired thickness.
Spread the leaves out on a plate. Drizzle with yoghurt dressing and strew with slices of hard-boiled egg and a few clover flowers.