Sunday, June 21, 2015

6 (and more) Ways to Eat Dandelions

I have been eating dandelions more and more lately. I don't always forage for them myself. Dandelion greens are actually available quite often in the organic produce section of grocery stores.

I also signed up for a Community Supported Foraging program run by Wild Infusions in Love, Saskatchewan. They deliver one box a month, sent by bus, full of wild-foraged foods and medicines, like Labrador tea, wild rose petals, nettles, wild mushrooms, and of course, dandelion greens.

Dandelions, while the bane of lawn enthusiasts, are drastically undervalued as a food and medicinal plant. They exist in North America because European immigrants brought the seeds with them. They considered dandelions so useful they couldn't imagine life without them. And now, it's hard for us to imagine life without them, too. But only because they are such a widespread weed.

The entire dandelion plant is edible. If you ever dared to taste one of the flowers, you'd be amazed how sweet they are. The leaves can be substituted for any dark, leafy green. Just be aware that they are sometimes quite bitter. If you are not accustomed to bitter flavours, it may be an acquired taste. But that bitter flavour is one of the tell-tale signs that dandelions are really, really good for you.

My sister studies herbology, and she is adamant that everyone should include more dandelion in their diet. They are considered a liver and kidney tonic, and help cleanse the body and improve digestion. Occasionally I try to wean myself off coffee, and when I do, I often use Dandy Blend, a commercially available coffee substitute, containing dandelion root, that I find surprisingly enjoyable in spite the lack of caffeine.

So if you were wondering what you might do with those pesky plants studding your lawn, here are a few ideas, curated from the internet, to get you started.

1. A simple salad (thanks, Martha Stewart!)
2. Dandelion greens with a warm hazelnut vinaigrette (I haven't tried this, but it's on my 'to make' list, so I thought I'd share)
3. Replace any dark leafy greens or wild greens in a recipe. I did that for this Hortopita, combining dandelion greens and chard mixed with feta cheese. My kids weren't keen on the bitterness, and my husband topped it with more cheese and said he liked it then. I liked it as is.
4. Make liqueur! Jenieats offers a guideline for cordial. I have tasted dandelion mead, made from dandelion honey, which was delicious. I love making liqueurs, because they tend to really capture the flavour of whatever fruit or herb you use. I'm going to have to try this.
5. Make dandelion cookies. Yes, you heard that right. My sister swears by them.
6. Make dandelion fritters. Sweet or savoury!

Eat The Weeds offers a nice list of recipes, from dandelion bread to dandelion wine.

The Kitchn offers up another 10 dandelion recipes that all sound delicious. Try them!

I get the sense that you can use them anywhere, in anything. If you need me, I'll be out picking dandelions.

Note: be sure you are foraging from a pesticide-free zone!