How to forage and cook ox eye daisies
Eden’s foraging expert Emma Gunn shares some easy foraged ox eye daisy recipe ideas. Impress dinner guests with tempura battered ox eye daisies or add an exciting ingredient to your fridge by pickling the flowers.
Known commonly as ox eye daisy or dog daisy, this tall grassland flower native to Europe has edible flowers and flower buds. Its botanical name, Leucanthemum vulgare, derives from the ancient Greek words leucos – meaning white – and anthos, meaning flower. It thrives on verges, hedgerows and in meadows and blooms from late spring through to autumn.
Ways to eat ox eye daisies
The flowers are tasty eaten raw and added to salads or desserts. The flower buds can be pickled like capers and the flowers can be tempura battered. These taste a bit like pineapple sweets!
Recipe for tempura battered ox eye daisies
- 20 ox eye daisy flower heads
- 1 cup of plain flour
- A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
- A few tablespoons of ice-cold fizzy water or ginger beer (amount varies depending on consistency)
- A handful of sesame seeds
- A pinch of spice
- Soya sauce
- Sweet chili sauce
- A dash of sesame oil
- Icing sugar for dusting (for a sweet version)
- Mix the dry ingredients and, with a balloon whisk, slowly add the liquid until you get a mustard-like consistency – you may not need to add all of it.
- Dip the flowers in to the mix, while holding the stem, and then drop them carefully into the hot oil (the weight and wetness of the batter mix will have stuck the petals together into a blob, but they will open up into star-like shapes once fried).
- While they are cooking, flip them over gently so they get an even colour.
- After a few minutes, they will have turned nice and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and blot on kitchen roll.
Sweet or savoury versions
You can enjoy your tempura battered ox eye daisies plain or you can experiment a little.
To turn them into a sweet snack, dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream or a dessert of your choice.
For a savoury version, try adding some sesame seeds to the original batter (adding a pinch of spice is another idea, but be careful not to lose the flavour of the flower bud). A dipping sauce made with a combination of soya sauce, sweet chili sauce and a dash of sesame oil would work nicely alongside them.
Emma’s golden rules of foraging
- Choose easily recognisable plants. If you’re new to foraging, don’t choose plants that are easily confused with others. Some plants can be poisonous, especially mushrooms, so don’t risk it. As foraging guru Richard Mabey wrote in his brilliant Food for free book, ‘Indigestion brought on by uncertainty about whether you have done yourself in can be just as uncomfortable as real food poisoning!’
- Invest in a good field guide. Take along a guide that includes illustrations or photos, as well as Latin names. These botanical names can give great clues about the plant, such as its habitat. For example, the suffix montana means it grows in the mountains, maritimus denotes that it is found on the coast, halimus in the dunes, while officinalis shows that it is a medicinal plant.
- Keep hygiene in mind. Avoid picking plants which may be dirty or polluted. For example, pick from areas away from the road. Also, don’t gather from low down along a path, where dogs or livestock may have brushed past. Don’t forage straight after a heavy rainfall, when plants in the ground – and shellfish – may be contaminated with run-off from the fields, which can contain chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Always give your leaves, flowers, fruit, nuts and roots a good wash before use.
- Don’t be greedy. Remember, you’re sharing nature’s harvest with wildlife too, so don’t take all of it. Also, be careful not to damage plants. If you only need the leaves, don’t pull them up by the roots; use a pair of secateurs. That way there’ll be lots more to harvest next year too.
- Remember where you found it. Make a note of the lane, field or beach where you found the plant, so that you can come back to that hotspot next year as well.
Thanks to Alex Pepperhill for the photo.