It’s easy to get into a rut with our favorite herbal preparations and forget to make the effort to try out something new.
Many years ago, my friend Kimberly (author of HerbFairies) told me it was her goal to make one new thing with her favorite herbs each year. This has long inspired me to do the same.
I was recently making dandelion pesto, which is one of my favorite springtime dandelion recipes.
I gathered up a bunch of dandelion leaves and began by chopping off the bottom portions of the stems. There happened to be a lot of stem. Just as I was about to sweep them into the compost, I thought, “I wonder what I could do with those?”
I remembered a recipe for fermented chard stalks in one of my favorite cookbooks, The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther. I decided to try something similar with the dandelion stems…and the result was so good I knew I had to share it with you!
Fermentation is a way to preserve vegetables while increasing the nutrients in your food. Vegetable fermentation is a form of lacto-fermentation that adds beneficial bacteria to your diet which can be very supportive for digestion.
Admittedly, fermentation can be a bit overwhelming at first. But, this simple recipe is an easy way to get started.
Here are the two most important tips when doing this recipe:
- Use clean utensils, jars, cutting boards, etc. Sterilizing them in a dishwasher or pouring just-boiled water over them is a good idea. (Note: I didn’t do either and mine turned out fine. This is just an extra precaution.)
- Make sure your brine covers your dandelion stems at all times.
Health Benefits of Dandelions
Dandelions are so easy to love it’s amazing they are so readily despised!
Dandelions are easily one of our most nutritious spring edibles. They are high in Vitamin C, phosphorous and beta-carotene.
One of the most wonderful benefits of dandelion is its taste! The bitter taste of dandelions has a powerful action on your digestive function. Tasting something bitter increases saliva which helps to break down carbohydrates in your mouth. This, in turn, stimulates many digestive secretions including HCL (the stomach acid that does many things, including break down proteins), and bile (which is important for digesting fats).
It’s a famous folkloric tradition to eat your bitter spring greens as a way to transition from the traditionally heavy and fatty foods of the winter to the fresh foods of the growing season. There are many dandelion recipes out there.
Fermented Dandelion Stems Recipe
This recipe pairs the slightly bitter taste of dandelion stems with the sour taste of a lacto-fermentation. The combination of this springtime bitter and fermentation is a powerful digestive aid. Several spices are added to the brine to give it a delicious flavor. These stems can be eaten as an appetizer, or minced and enjoyed over food, in sandwiches or mixed with veggies. If you don’t have dandelion stems you could try using other types of vegetable stems such as chard or kale.
What you’ll need…
- 1 large bunch of dandelion stems
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander
- 1 bay leaf
Place the dandelion stems in a glass jar that fits their size. A pint size mason jar worked well for me. Using a glass jar that has been made for ferments and has an airlock is ideal, but not required to make a good ferment.
Bring the water to a boil and add the salt and spices. Stir well until the salt is dissolved. Let it cool to around 95 degrees F or until the liquid feels neutral when you stick your finger in it.
Pour the cooled brine over your dandelion stems. I had extra brine so I made sure to get most of the spices in the jar with the dandelion stems and discarded the extra brine.
The next step is that you want to make sure the dandelion stems remain below the brine. To do this I cut a piece of cabbage leaf to the size of the jar and tucked that in on top of the dandelion stems. I then added a small, sterilized stone to keep the leaf weighed down. You’ll want about a 1/2 inch of brine left above the stems.
Before placing the lid on the jar, pour enough olive oil in the jar so that it forms a layer on top of your brine. This helps form a barrier between your ferment and oxygen, which will help decrease risk of mold. I used a plastic canning jar lid. I’m not sure if a metal lid would react with the salty brine or if it would fit too tight not allowing CO2 to escape.
Place your jar in a warm part of your kitchen. A temperature of 68-72 degrees F. is optimal. Place a small plate under the jar in case any of the brine escapes during fermentation.
Now for the hard part: waiting!
I checked on my fermentation every couple of days to make sure the stems and cabbage leaf stayed under the brine. A few spices had floated to the top so I removed them. After a week, I started tasting the stems to see if they were done. If you are new to fermenting, it’s a good idea to taste your ferment frequently so you can note the changes. When the ferment isn’t done the stems will taste overly salty. As the fermentation progresses they will have a more sour or tangy taste to them. The fermentation process may take 2 to 4 weeks.
Sometimes fermentation goes wrong and mold develops. If this happens, discard your project and start again. There are many books and websites out there to help you with troubleshooting ferments. Hopefully this simple recipe is smooth sailing for you.