Handy Dandy Lion

This photo has very little to do with the recipe, but it DOES shout "spring"!

This photo has very little to do with the recipe, but it DOES shout “spring”!

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.”

greens growingweb


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.

greens soakingweb

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Ingredients:

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)

Instructions:

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.

greens cookedweb

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.

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9 Responses to “Handy Dandy Lion”

  1. Jim Littrell says:

    Wow! Great entry. Thanks. Also, just FYI and because I’m back up in southern VT and know these things, in or near your yard there may now briefly also be found fiddleheads, another set of delicious little green things, at least when done right. They must be blanched (see many recipes) or they will make you sick sick sick. But after blanching, many yummy things may emerge. And as with dandelion greens, fiddlehead harvesting makes you get out and bend over, always a good thing in my case! (BTW, dandelion greens are best when they are the very first over the ground horizontal-ish leaves. After that, the leaves get more and more bitter, though still good for a bit of back in a salad.)

    And best of all, when coming up last Sunday, I stopped for breakfast at my favorite little local no frills eatery in the Northampton vicinity, the Look Restaurant just west of Florence on Rt 9 in Leeds, for one of my all time favorite meals: fresh local Hadley asparagus lightly steamed and served on toast covered with a great lemony eggy hollandaise. They serve this only when Hadley asparagus come in. The great news is that their having this treat last week means asparagus are about to arrive in our parts! Yay!

  2. Georgette says:

    Somewhere in the mess at home, I have an entire cookbook devoted to
    dandelions. If I can dig it out, I should show it to you someday.

  3. tinkyweisblat says:

    Alas, Jim, I have never found the true fiddleheads; the ones I always pick taste terrible. I do occasionally pick them up at a store, and I think they’re wonderful. But I have given up on trying to find them wild. As for asparagus, I am trying to eat it daily.

    Georgette, I hope the book shows up without your having to look too hard; it sounds wonderful!

  4. commonweeder says:

    I am a great fan of dandelions, in or out of the lawn, but I rarely eat them. However, I have eaten other dishes that shout of spring, a neighbor’s first cutting of asparagus, and a handful of ramps that were a gift from another neighbor. Thank heavens for good neighbors.

  5. tinkyweisblat says:

    We would indeed be lost without them! I keep killing my rhubarb, but my neighbor always shares his….

  6. Adelaide says:

    Hi Tinky,

    My mother made a salad with dandelion greens. When small, they are great served with a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, salt and pepper. Once the dandelions get tall they are not as tender eaten raw. Never tried them cooked. Too late this year for me; they are mostly in seed and most likely bitter.

    dandelion greens
    and wild onion grass
    today’s lunch salad

    Adelaide

  7. tinkyweisblat says:

    I’ll try it, Adelaide. And thanks for the lovely verse….

  8. Grad says:

    Tinky, I just commented on your FB page. My dad went dandelion hunting every spring into the forest preserves. He’d bring home bags and bags and his brothers would come by the house to get their share. The way he’d make it is this: He’d saute bacon until crisp and make a warm bacon dressing with the drippings. He’d add the bacon, sliced hard boiled eggs (cut into wedges…always), diced boiled new potatoes, and then the dressing to the greens while the dressing was still hot. We were directed to eat it while warm. Dandelion greens did not wait! I loved that dish almost as much as his spaghetti. We have a market that sells organic dandelion greens. Pricey, but well worth it. I just made it last month and my daughter told me she did as well. Warm dandelion salad is slightly bitter, iron-y, and wonderful! It is the one dish that will instantly transport me to my childhood.

  9. tinkyweisblat says:

    I read your comment first thing this morning, Grad, and I want that salad for breakfast!

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