slides: Dandelions in the Garden and How to Eat Them
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Yet I have been told to be concerned if dandelions are not visible in a garden as it means it may not be organic. Birds, butterflies, bees, and other garden visitors are nourished by its seeds and blossoms. Dandelion leaves, flowers, and even roots are edible and consumed in temperate climates world-wide. A caffeine-free coffee from the roots, a diuretic tea from the leaves and blossoms, wine, root beer, and a British soft drink are all beverages made from dandelions!
Recipes for battered and fried blossoms—fritters, cookies, syrup, jam, pastas, pestos, sautés, soups, breads, frittatas, and beyond made with dandelion blossoms and leaves are plentiful online. I even came across a recipe for a dandelion syrup baklava—that I must try as I'm making baklawe this weekend.
Dandelion's health benefits—iron, protein, vitamins A, C, K, autoimmune properties, and more—have long been appreciated and utilized medicinally in the Mediterranean and international culinary world. The plant brings nitrogen to the soil, and other nutrients for shallower rooted plants.
Sauteéd greens with lots of garlic and onions are used instead of spinach, beet greens, kale, or chard in our Arabic hindbi miqli, sautéed dandelion greens. The beautiful red-stemmed variety I found at Food Front were completely free of bitterness, and I merely sautéed them with garlic until tender in olive oil, then tossed in caramelized onions and drizzled it all with fresh lemon juice.
In Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean, the young, tender leaves are typically picked for salad, as in salatat hindbi. In my version, I added caramelized onions along with green onions, pine nuts, with our classic mashed garlic, lemon, and olive oil dressing; the result was a refreshing change from typical salads.
Be sure to look for these greens in the farmers' markets this week and purchase several bunches as it cooks down dramatically—calculate a half bunch per person if serving as a side dish, and more since people will want seconds! Many recipes call for pre-cooking the greens in water, but to me a bit of bite adds to the earthiness of this nutritious spring plate. Experiment with your own home picked greens when they are young and tender. The blossoms keep coming, so you can explore other ideas, which I'm about to do with my ongoing blossom supply. Remove the green parts before using the blossoms, and the lower white part of the leaves which are bitter. And if the blossoms escape your view to form seed puffs, go ahead: pick one and blow it—delight in remembering your joyful, carefree days of childhood.
—Linda Dalal Sawaya is a Portland artist, cook, Master Gardener, and author of Alice's Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking.
Remember, as my mother Alice said, "If you make it with love, it will be delicious!"