2016-03-24 / From The Garden

Dandelions for Dinner

FROM THE GARDEN
By Cynthia Gibson

Spring has almost sprung! The pussy willows are out, the crocuses are peeking from the soil, and emerging next will be the yellow flower of spring – not the daffodil, but the dandelion.

This weed is the bane of existence for anyone caring about the perfect manicured lawn. But for those a bit more daring and casual, it is dinner. There are many recipes for using dandelion greens in salads, and one of the better uses for the plant’s peppery green leaves is with fettucine.

The dandelion, whose name is a variation of the French “dent de lion” (or lion’s tooth), is a charming weed. Its name describes its leaves, which are made up of acute dents that have pointy ends. They almost look like flat, long holly leaves. The breed is Eurasian by birth and made its way to North America with early European travelers.

The dandelion is totally edible, from root to flower and all of its surrounding foliage. The leaves have been used as salad for centuries. It was a popular dish in Victorian times in Boston. Dandelion seeds were sold in seed catalogs, and it was grown as a “greens” crop for salads and blanching.

Dandelion greens taste a lot like chicory or frisee lettuces. They are crisp and bitter, and add an excellent bite to an everyday salad. Add a bit of bacon and hardboiled egg to your dandelion salad vinaigrette, and you have a winner.

For a very quick and delicious dinner from your lawn, sauté dandelion leaves in a bit of butter, a minced garlic clove, and good olive oil for about seven minutes or until they are wilted. Remove the leaves from the heat, add cooked fettucine to the frying pan, and toss with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

Remember to use your own dandelions for your meals, as your neighbors might have sprayed an herbicide on theirs.

Dandelions are tasty and worth a try. If you like endive, you will like dandelion. It is spring, and it is one of the first edibles sprouting that you do not even have to plant.

The next time you see a dandelion, think dinner!

Editor’s note: Numerous online sources echo the advice that it is “essential to avoid areas where weed killer might be sprayed.”

Garden Tips:

.This is the last week to start tomato seeds.
.Spray horticultural oil on fruit trees.
.Plant bell peppers indoors, as well as broccoli, cabbage, chard,
kale, and lettuce.
.Plant all herbs from seed indoors only, as they take time to
germinate and need consistent warmth.
.Prepare your cold frames or hot beds to receive indoor seedlings
next month.
.If you have old windows leaning against the back of your garage,
think about making your own cold frames.
.Clean all raised beds from last year if you did not do it last fall.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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