Photo: randihausken (Flickr)
The name dandelion comes from the French “Dente de Lyon” or “Lion’s tooth”, so named because of their jagged tooth-like appearance. The French now call them “Pissenlit” meaning “wet the bed.”
Spring is the best time to pick dandelions to be eaten raw in salads. They tend to have a milder flavor when the weather is cooler, but find them in a shady corner of the yard or garden and they can remain tender throughout the summer.
Remember: never pick dandelions in an area that has been treated with chemicals. And make sure you wash your greens well in room temperature water with a spoonful of white vinegar. This helps get the dirt off and critter out.
I like the raw greens tossed in walnut oil or warm bacon drippings with some mild vinegar and a poached or fried egg on top. Once the summer heat hits, these greens really do have a lion’s bite. These more mature greens tend to be bitter and should be blanched and cooked. Some folk blanch them two times to make them less bitter, but this also leaches out the vitamins.
I like these summer dandelions cooked down with local ham and some fresh lemon. The acid, smoky fatty flavors enrobe the bitterness and carry it away to the back of the palette. They can also be chopped and tossed in soups and vegetables side dishes giving sweeter ingredients like peas their complex bitterness.
Not only are the greens a treat, but the flower buds are great in stir-fries and the fresh bright yellow blooms may be battered and fried. The leaves are high in vitamins A and C as well as calcium and give you more iron than spinach.
We in the states are a little more timid toward Dandelions. Other cultures use many parts of the plant including the root. Our northern neighbors use it as a diuretic and detox ingredients to “clean the blood.” In the UK they consider it a liver tonic and make a soft drink with it.
The milky white sap from the plant is also sometimes used as a mosquito repellent. And those bright yellow flowers that so many folks hate in their yards are the first source of nectar and pollen for honey bees.
Dandelion Greens With New Potatoes And Local Italian Sausage
- 1 gallon dandelion greens - washed well and spun dry
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Spanish onion - sliced thinly
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 pound local Italian sausage – cut into bite sized pieces
- 6 small red potatoes, diced
- 2 cups water, chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons vinegar
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- optional: hot sauce or chili flakes, butter
- Roughly cut dandelion greens in 3 inch pieces.
- Pre-heat a heavy bottomed stainless steel pot over medium heat and add oil, onions, garlic and sausage. Cook until lightly brown.
- Place dandelion greens on top of sausage mixture and add water or stock.
- Top with potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 25-30 minutes until greens and potatoes are tender.
- Remove cover and reduce the liquids down by half. This nectar my Grampa called pot liquor.
- Add 4 tablespoons of vinegar (and a little butter if desired) and season to taste with salt and pepper.