PLANTSTO LOOK­OUT­FOR

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Cover Story -

Dan­de­lion leaves

Do you re­mem­ber when you were a child tast­ing the hor­rid bit­ter­ness that dan­de­lions left on your fin­gers, a taste that lin­gered and de­manded an emer­gency Polo mint or gob­stop­per to wash it away? Strangely, the plants only de­velop this char­ac­ter­is­tic fully as they grow older, so the ten­der young leaves sprout­ing now are ex­quis­ite as a salad leaf and leave only the tini­est tang of bit­ter­ness as an af­ter­taste. They grow just about ev­ery­where, and are easy to pick. Or you could, of course, go to a su­per­mar­ket and spend money on a plas­tic bag of chlo­ri­nes­cented mixed leaves, which of­ten in­clude the very same dan­de­lion.

Gorse flow­ers

The blos­som smells de­li­ciously sweet and slightly of co­conut. The tea it makes is al­most flu­o­res­cent yel­low in colour and car­ries the se­duc­tive scent of the flower. Gorse bushes flower un­til at least the end of May so there’s plenty of time to pick them. The flow­ers can also be dried and stored for use later in the year. In­fuse the leaves for about two min­utes with boil­ing wa­ter in a teapot. Add honey if you have a sweet tooth but be care­ful not to put in too much in case it masks the gorse’s flavour com­pletely.

Hawthorn

Hawthorn bushes are burst­ing with young vivid green sprigs of new growth just now, and th­ese bushy young leaves are per­fect as a gar­nish. When chopped finely, they taste and look al­most iden­ti­cal to flat-leaved pars­ley. Hawthorn is one of the most com­mon plants in typ­i­cal coun­try hedges but be care­ful not to spike your fin­gers on the bushes’ long thorns as you pick. The leaves are also in­dis­pens­able if you are keen to en­liven a flag­ging din­ner party with a game: guess the in­gre­di­ent in the salad.

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