Back before common use of pesticides and before World War II, dandelion greens were an important cash source for migrant gypsies when they hit the towns of New England each spring. Darkly clad, lean, muscular, white flashing teeth, they’d appear from almost nowhere, leaping fences, flashing shiny switch blades and deftly severing lush, dandelion greens and dropping them into bags which hung from their belts. Each year local produce markets eagerly bought their bounty. It was a welcome rite of spring each year, after long winters when temperatures never went above 50 degrees until nearly mid-May.
Too many of us know dandelions today as pesky, uninvited lawn pests, a wild, obnoxious weed. However, now we refer to the cultivated variety usually locally farm-raised, tenderest in spring. Truth is, they are one of the most nutritious leafy vegetable we can buy. If your market doesn’t carry them, look to your nearest health store.
Dandelions can become a beverage, too. Many make wine or tea from dandelion flowers. Another popular European beverage, since the 1200s until today, is Dandelion and Burdock, similar in flavor to sarsaparilla.
Dandelions were cultivated in European gardens for centuries. The French were fond of them with warm bacon drippings, and the Italians liked theirs with hot pepper. The dandelion was deliberately taken to the New World for its use as food and medicine.
Dandelion greens are especially rich in vitamins A, C and K and a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. They are also said to be capable of cleansing the liver, lowering blood pressure, reducing water retention and performing as a mild diuretic. It was a generally fine spring tonic.
Store as any other greens, in a plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper.
Dandelion greens with garlic in mashed potato
Dandelion salad of greens, goat cheese, red onion, oil, vinegar and walnuts
Steamed or sautéed
Wilted with bacon
Dandelions for lettuce in traditional green salad
Squid Sautéed with chili flakes, lemon and dandelion greens. Serve with soy-based dipping sauce.
Stir-fry greens, currants or raisins and pine nuts.
A simple sauté of greens, garlic and red pepper flakes
Poached eggs with dandelion greens from blanched greens, olive oil, pepper flakes and French bread, toasted.
Dandelion soup of chicken broth, roasted garlic and parmesan cheese
Dandelion cream soup from dandelion greens, spinach, arugula, onion, olive oil, leek, carrot, broth, cream and Dijon mustard
Lentil soup from onion, garlic, jalapeno, gingerroot, cumin, Five Spice powder, pepper flakes and lentils
Lamb soup from dandelions, lamb shanks, oregano, marjoram, carrots, celery and grated parmesan cheese.