Sunday, May 27, 2012

FORAGING: Dandelion liqueur

Ever since I discovered how Taraxacum officinale is called in English, I thought that it's a funny name... Dandelion is originally Dent de lion (Lion tooth), the French name for it. It's called the same in Italian (Dente di leone) and I guess that it refers to the toothed shape of the leaves.
But the really funny name is the other French common name (as well its name in Northern Italian dialects): Pissenlit (pee in bed) that refers to its diuretic properties.
Its freshly grown leaves are collected in spring and early autumn, boiled and eaten along with other wild plants. They are known in Northern Le Marche as Erbe di campo (lit. Field herbs) and they are usually sauteed with olive oil (lard in the traditional version) with garlic.
The roots are collected, dried, ground and used as a (not very interesting) substitute for coffee.
But my favorite use is Dandelion flowers liqueur!
You need:
100 dandelion flowers (collected when fully in bloom)
A syrup made with 250 g of water and 300 gr of sugar
2 whole lemons cut in pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
750 g of water
750 g of 95º alcohol
(you can use Vodka and reduce the amount of water accordingly)

Make a syrup with 250 g of water and 300 g of sugar and let cool.
In a glass jar that you can close tightly put the flowers, lemons, lemon juice and syrup.
Close, store in a warm place and let rest for 1 week.
Add the 750g water and the alcohol and leave for about 3 months.
Filter and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


In my opinion one of the pleasures of living in the countryside is getting in touch with nature in many different ways. 

I love having the possibility of meeting the little creatures that inhabit our world without us realizing. Today, driving along a white road by the farm, I saw a blackbird in the middle of the road carrying a huge worm and struggling to fly away when it saw my car. Hurrying to fly away it lost the worm and panicked, trying to decide between its prey and dear life. I slowed down allowing it to run back (blackbirds tend to run instead of flying), get the worm and run away. A few months ago I had the funniest meeting with a very cheeky dormouse who was as curios of understanding what kind of animal I was as I was of seeing how near was it going to come. 
The other great pleasure is redescovering the countryside traditions, things that people did for centuries and that we, contemporary town people, lost completely. I still remember my first sausage and the day that I made cheese using fig leaves as rennet (it worked perfectly but the cheese was dreadful). This also includes foraging: flowers, leaves, berries, sprouts, buds... and of course experimenting old and new recipes to prepare dishes, liqueurs, syrups, jams, jellies, preserves, medicines and much more.
This year spring is early, so elder is blooming right now here in Northern Le Marche. The first instalment of this new series about foraging (and preparing yummy goodies), after this long introduction, will be two links to gorgeous recipes using elder flowers. Enjoy!