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October 24, 2014
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community living

The dandelion, ever edible

Contributed photo

By Jane Bollinger

You probably think of dandelions as a pesky weed, but truth be told, they are an eminently edible wild food plant and one of the earliest flowers to blossom in the spring. I have never eaten a dandelion flower, though reportedly they are sweet and mild. Nor have I eaten the root, which according to my research can be eaten raw, steamed, or dried, roasted and ground for a coffee substitute.

At home growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, however, my mother used to forage for dandelion greens, but only the first cutting in the spring; by summer the leaves can be quite bitter. If you’re going to try your hand at foraging dandelions yourself, don’t harvest from any area that may have been sprayed with herbicides, such as in a public park or along the roadside, or even your own backyard if you use chemicals, something I personally don’t recommend for about 100 reasons.

The dish my mother served was a warm salad of wilted dandelion greens with bacon dressing.

Dandelion greens reminiscent of my childhood

Serves four

4 cups tender, young dandelion greens

3 thick slices bacon, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon finely diced red onion

2 Tablespoons honey

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Hard-boiled egg (optional)

Wash dandelions well and pick over carefully, remove stems, spin or pat dry, chop into 1-inch pieces and place in a salad bowl.

For the dressing:

Render chopped bacon and cook until light brown or to your preference, and then remove from pan.

Pour off half of the drippings.

Lower the heat, add the red onion and cook several minutes until onions are translucent.

Whisk in honey to coat the onion pieces.

Mix the water, cornstarch, vinegar, black pepper and salt together in a bowl.

Add to pan and cook until thickened, about two minutes, whisking as needed.

Stir in bacon bits.

Taste and add more vinegar or honey, if needed.

To serve: Pour the warm dressing over the dandelion greens and toss gently.

Garnish with sliced egg, if you wish, and serve.

Note: I have also had this salad with still-warm, boiled potatoes added to the salad bowl, just before dressing the greens.

According to the website sunwarrior.com, dandelions are “a very rich source of beta-carotene, which we convert into vitamin A. This flowering plant is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. It is a good place to get B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and even vitamin D. Dandelion contains protein, too, more than spinach. It has been eaten for thousands of years and used to treat anemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression.”(www.sunwarrior.com/news/11-health-benefits-of-dandelion-and-dandelion-ro...)