It’s farmer’s market season, which, for many of us, means a bounty of fresh, local produce is available just around the corner. But for me, it means that, as I stroll past the booths bursting with color, I’m once again confronted with the embarrassing realization that I don’t know what to do with half of the stuff that’s available. So this year, I’m going to finally figure out all of the intimidating roots, fruits, and greens that I’d previously avoided. This week, I learned how to use dandelion greens.
First, I should tell you dandelions quite literally left a bad taste in my mouth at a young age. When I was a kid, someone told my mom that dandelions were really healthy. And because we were pretty broke and they grew in the backyard, my resourceful mother decided to pluck some and feed them to us. I assume that person meant dandelion greens, because dandelion flowers (which we all had to choke down with ranch dressing) taste like 50 shades of disgusting.
The experience is one my siblings and I will likely never forget, so I’ve always avoided anything having to do with the weeds. Which, by the way, you can get even if you don’t have a farmer’s market in a 200 mile radius because if you’re living somewhere rural, they are probably in your yard. However, I’m an adult now, and when I saw them at the market, I decided to learn a thing or two.
When I asked the nice woman running the booth that had them if she’d ever eaten them, she assured me that the greens themselves are super-nutritious and nowhere near as repulsive as the flowers.
“The flowers taste like earwax, don’t they? The greens are better. I put them in salads,” she told me. And she’s right. Earwax is exactly how the flowers taste.
This lovely lady (whose name I didn’t catch because she was busy) taught me the first thing that I learned about dandelion greens: they they take almost no prep, and can be used basically just like all other greens. Just trim them down, wash them, and you’re good to go. Salads, sandwiches, just about anywhere you’d use lettuce, you can use these flavorful greens. Easy peasey.
The next thing I learned (from an old lady who was shopping at the booth, too) was that, aside from serving them raw, you can also sauté them or otherwise cook them, and they are lovely. She said that you can toss them in with anything you’d usually use spinach–eggs, tofu, or pasta, like this recipe from Frugally Sustainable–or, as she said, you can “let them shine on their own.” A little bit spicy and bitter, they lend themselves well to recipes involving chili or curry, like with this yummy side from Epicurious.
The third thing I learned about dandelion greens is that, like spinach, kale, and other nutrient-rich leaves, they are really excellent at being hidden. High in iron, protein, and vitamins A, C, and K, the greens will add oomph to your juice, smoothie, or soup without adding a weird flavor. This is especially good if you’ve got a picky eater on your hands. Fat Free Vegan Kitchen has this amazing lentil suggestion that I’ll be making this weekend.
Another cool thing about dandelion greens: if you have a lot of them (or you bought some at the market and realized you didn’t know what to do with them), you can pop them in the freezer and have a super smoothie boost ready, at your fingertips, all season long.
So now you know what I know about how to use dandelion greens. Stay tuned, because next week, I’ll take on a more challenging mystery: how to use rhubarb!