Dandelion salad days

Dandelion salad days

Now is the time to start thinking about making a dandelion salad. Just take a look around your yard: a hit of some rain and some warmer weather has helped push out the yellow flowers of Taraxacum officinale, the dandelion, into a bumper crop of so-called weed.

But rather than a weed, qualify this member of the daisy family a bitter herb which has long been a favourite food ingredient for many cultures. As early summer rolls in, so do the dandelions. Gather them while ye may.

Dubbed “the tramp with the golden head,” it’s said to be best to use dandelions for eating purposes before they flower (and assuming, of course, that you haven’t sprayed your lawn with pesticides; and that you know neighbourhood dogs haven’t paid a visit): the flowering process causes the leaves to become more bitter than they ordinarily would be. (I haven’t tried dandelions pre- versus post-bloom, so I can’t say that is true.)

Locally foraged dandelions (Photo: WREats).

Locally foraged dandelions (Photo: WREats).

As I’ve noted, a wide array of countries and cultures use dandelions as a cooking ingredient. The Algerians use dandelions in a honey cake they make, and of course they are part of Southern U.S. soul food cookery. There’s dandelion wine and dandelion tea, as well as dandelion honey. In Germanic cooking — perhaps such as that once popular here in “Waterloo County” — one recipe of which I’ve seen is hot cider vinegar dressing and bacon on dandelion greens.

So, tempus fugit and carpe diem, and all of that: pick your dandelions while they are available right outside your door, wash them and toss them with whatever inspires you. For example, pick a good salad bowl-full of washed dandelion greens; in another bowl, whisk together vigorously a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, a quarter-cup of good olive or veg oil, a pinch or two of sugar and sprinkle in salt and pepper. Toss the dandelion greens with the dressing and enjoy.

And sure — add some cooked bacon for extra dandelion love.

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