I may be drummed out of The Guild of Foragers for saying this, but I’m not a huge fan of eating dandelion leaves.
For my taste, they are just a little too bitter for all but a smidgen in a mixed wild salad, or, suitably blanched, in savoury puddings with dock and nettle. But that very bitterness had long reminded me of tonic water, and a wild tonic water to drink with The Botanist had been on my list of things to try to make for some time. After all, what’s the point in drinking fine, artisanal gin of sublime providence, then mixing it with crappy tonic water. I know Fever Tree has filled a gap in this market, but they still get their core ingredient – chinchona bark – from the Congo. It costs the earth, literally and metaphorically.
So when I was goaded into a windswept graveyard on Islay’s Atlantic coast in mid-March by a photographer who was more excited about backdrops than flora, time and place rolled themselves into opportunity and The Graveyard B & T was born.
Young, fresh, pre-flowering dandelions were fringing the graves. The sublimely named ivy-leaved toadflax was creeping over the sheltered sides of the walls. Sorrel, as always, abounded. And the snappy basal leaves of ladies smock was poking through the moss in the damp dips between the stones.
So I loaded up my now ever-present rapid unfuser (see here) and half-filled it with dandelions and sorrel and few pinches of ladies smock.