The steadfast and cheerful dandelion, the bane of many a weed-hater, offers amazing nutrition and medicinal benefits. Yes, they can be bitter, but their sweet grassiness balances it out.
Harvest dandelion greens early in the spring, when they are their youngest and before they flower. They can be harvested again in late fall as they lose some of their bitterness after a frost. Look for young dandelions growing in rich, moist soil, making sure not to forage close to roads (they can accumulate pollution) and far from areas that have been treated with chemicals (or where pets have "roamed"). For a special treat, get out early in spring and look for the crown, which is the cluster of new buds that sits above the taproot. These are the sweetest parts of the plant.
Young dandelion greens are tender and delicious served raw in salads or sandwiches. If you use the greens that have been harvested after the plant has flowered, you can blanch them in water to remove the bitterness; dump the bitter water, and blanch them again. You will lose some vitamins this way, but there are still plenty of beneficial nutrients left. Use sauteed or steamed dandelion greens as you would any other greens.
There is a traditional soup in France, creme de pissenlits (cream of dandelions), which balances dandelions' spiciness and subtle bitterness with other savory flavors. It is delicious, combining a bit of cool French granny with down-home Southern cooking. The traditional French recipe uses Dijon mustard. It adds some spicy depth, but you may prefer it without.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
- 2 pounds (about 6 cups) dandelion greens, trimmed and washed
- 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 2 large leeks, white and light parts only, cleaned and sliced (save the dark ends for a later use)
- 1 carrot, cleaned and diced
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)
- Dash salt and pepper to taste
- Handful dandelion buds and/or flower petals for garnish
- If using more mature or very bitter tasting greens, blanch them in a pot of boiling salted water, then drain and squeeze out the excess water, chop and set aside.
- Heat butter or oil in a large pot over medium high heat, add greens, carrot and leeks and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes.
- Add stock and simmer for about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in milk, cook stirring frequently, until slightly thickened.
- Puree mix in a tightly covered blender until smooth, taking care with the hot liquid. Season with salt and pepper, and add Dijon if you like.
- Serve in bowls and garnish with flowers or buds.
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This recipe originally appeared in "True Food: Eight Simple Steps for a Healthier You" (National Geographic, 2009) by Annie B. Bond, Melissa Breyer and Wendy Gordon. This story was originally written for Treehugger. Copyright 2012.