Foraging spring eats from beyond the garden
Odd as it may seem to the “weed police” of modern North American lawns, for hundreds of years Dandelions were – and still are -used for food and medicine throughout the world. The leaves, blooms and roots all have value in the arena of healing and nutrition. The greens and flowers are seen as gourmet, not survival foods…. the French have a Cream of Dandelion soup!
The number one tip for partaking of Dandelion leaves and blooms as food is to harvest them where you’re sure of no chemical contamination – such as from lawn treatment or road pollution. Harvest leaves when they are young – before flower stalks form, for best flavor without bitterness. Early harvest also gives the most of the nutrients the leaves offer, including calcium, potassium, vitamins A&C, iron and protein. Blooms for eating should be plucked shortly after opening for the sweetest taste. Greens and Flowers should be rinsed and dried before use, like any produce.
Young Dandelion leaves, similar to spinach, can be used for salads and soups and can be sautéed or steamed. If you have to harvest leaves after flower have appeared, they can be blanched twice to remove the bitterness, but nutrient levels will be less. The quickest way to enjoy the greens, beyond salad, is to sauté with minced garlic in olive oil for just a few minutes.
Dandelion flowers can also be enjoyed with minimal preparation, as a garnish. Simply bunch the cluster of petals then twist, to remove them from the green cap that holds them to the stem, and sprinkle them on salads, dips or yogurt. With a bit more time you can enjoy such indulgences as Fried Dandelion blooms, Dandelion Oatmeal Cookies, Dandelion Jelly and, of course, Dandelion Wine! Recipes can be found anywhere from the gourmet Epicurious site to the down-to-earth Dandy Blend site.