My family is not a gardening family. For years my mother and I tried to plant vegetables in our yard, dreaming optimistically of running out and picking something for supper and cooking it mere minutes after it left the garden.
Even when we managed to keep the plants fertilized and weeded (and I admit that we seldom did!) the results were dire. Bugs and rabbits consumed more produce than we did, and our vegetables came up spare and blemished when they came up at all.
There are some people who are destined to buy their food. I am one of them.
I still manage to eat fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the growing season by belonging to a CSA and frequenting local farmstands and farmers markets. On Friday, however, I discovered one edible plant I have NO TROUBLE growing.
David Rich, the neighbor who cuts my lawn, finished the first mowing of the year and appeared at my door. “I left you the dandelions by your herb bed,” he said. “I thought you might want to eat the greens.”
I was perplexed. I don’t hate dandelions the way some people do, and I certainly wouldn’t poison the grass to get rid of them. It had never occurred to me to eat them, however. Still, I’m always ready to try something new. And goodness only knows I had plenty of dandelions with which to experiment.
Dave suggested cutting the greens carefully with scissors to minimize the grass I would pick with them. (I still ended up with some grass, but I managed to separate it out while soaking the greens.)
He told me that he and his wife Sally like to cook the greens as they do spinach, by steaming them and adding just a bit of butter.
My favorite way of cooking spinach (aside from making it into a salad) is to sauté it with a little olive oil and garlic so I opted for that method.
When I looked up eating dandelion greens on the internet, I saw a recipe for dandelion-green salad with walnut oil. Since I had some walnut oil in the house (I have been using it for salad dressing lately), I decided to add a bit to my cooked greens. I didn’t use it to cook them since walnut oil has a low smoking point.
If I had had some walnuts to toast, I would have popped them on top, but I am out of walnuts.
Even without the walnuts, my neighbors the Gillans (who helped taste) and I agreed that the dish was delectable. The greens had a hint of bitterness, but the walnut oil smoothed it out.
My dandelions are flowering fast, but I’m sure I’ll get in another cooking session before they get too old. Meanwhile, I am happy to have found that I have a knack for growing SOMETHING I can eat—and something I can feel virtuous eating: dandelion greens are chock full of vitamins and minerals.
1 large bunch dandelion greens (cut when they are young and tender, BEFORE the flowers come out)
a small amount of olive oil (start with 1 to 2 teaspoons and add a little more if needed)
1 clove garlic, cut into very thin strips
salt to taste
a good dollop of walnut oil
a few toasted walnuts (optional)
Soak the greens in cold water for a few minutes. While they are soaking remove any grass stalks that are attached to them. Place them in a colander to drain, but do not shake them dry; they should still be slightly damp when you cook them.
In a 12-inch sauté pan warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic pieces until they begin to turn golden brown.
Toss in the greens (they will sizzle a little because they are wet). Sauté them with the garlic just until they wilt. This is a rapid process.
Toss on salt to taste. Transfer the vegetables to a medium bowl, and add the walnut oil. Toss. Serve immediately, garnishing with the walnuts if you have them.
Serves 1 to 2.
P.S. Food enthusiasts in the Pioneer Valley may be interested in the area’s first-ever Dishcrawl, an evening of exploring dishes from a variety of local restaurants. The Dishcrawl will take place next Tuesday, May 21, in Northampton and is being organized by Jennifer Iannaconi, an artist (and art and food lover) who hopes that the next Dishcrawl will cover my own Franklin County as well. The event will introduce diners to four separate restaurants (presumably with different courses!) and costs $45. The identities of the restaurants are shrouded in mystery, but Northampton has some fabulous eateries so it promises to be a delicious evening. For more information, click here.