Friday, April 1, 2011
Spring is here, even though the northeast is being snowed in, and it's time to think of eating healthy spring greens. One of the most common of these are dandelions.
Early settlers brought dandelions to America to grow in their gardens. This prolific plant quickly spread to grow wild throughout the entire continent. Organic gardeners are now growing dandelions and they have become easy to find at local farmer's markets and natural food stores.
My grandmas looked forward to harvesting dandelion greens in the spring to supplement the family diet with greens before the garden began producing. We children were instructed to only pick the young leaves and to never pick leaves from dandelions that had begun blooming (these older leaves would be bitter).
Never pick dandelions from a yard or field where chemical insecticides, fungicides or fertilizers are used. This is extremely important as you cannot wash all the chemicals off of plants.
I love to cook dandelion greens in the same way I would mustard or collard greens, but they don't need to be cooked quite as long. Saute some diced bacon in a pot, add onion and garlic if you wish. Or saute the onion and garlic in oil, then throw in a smoked hamhock or smoked turkey wing. Put in greens and some water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer until tender.
Our favorite way to serve greens is in a bowl with cornbreak. Right before eating we sprinkle on pepper vinegar. Dandelion greens can be served on rice, in an omlet or mixed into a stew.
Some people say that you can used the leaves after the flowers bloom if you soak them for a day in water with lemon juice and salt. This supposedly removes the bitterness. I think I'll stick with young greens.
Make Euell Gibbons proud, forage for some dandelions greens this spring.