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Dandelions. Those harbingers of spring that pop up on your lawn, get picked by your little ones, and sprayed or weeded by some of your neighbors. Like many "weeds" these little wild plants are powerhouses when it comes to nutritional and health benefits.
When it comes to making use of dandelions you have two options - the flowers or the greens. In general, the leaves are good for eating and the flowers are great for tea and other herbal remedies. This recipe highlights the bitter, but nutrition-packed leaves of the dandelion which can be used in much the same way as other similar greens like arugula or mustard greens.
Harvesting Dandelion Greens
When picking dandelion greens, make sure you are sourcing from a place where you: a) have permission to pick; and b) know that chemicals have not been used. Your own lawn, if you keep it organic, is a great place to start. Likewise, I often pick from the dandelions that pop up in my vegetable garden because I know those have not been tainted.
Look for small, tender leaves, especially if you can find them before the plant flowers. They should be nice and soft, not prickly or rough, much like arugula.
Give your greens a nice soak in cold water, two rinses if you know that pets or other animals have been nearby, then drain and dry before use. While dandelion greens can most certainly be eaten raw (we mix them into salad greens sometimes) they do taste bitter, so you might prefer them cooked.
Recipe: Dandelion Green Frittata
This recipe is adapted from our Beet Breens & Basil Frittata Recipe (which is a great option for a bit later in your gardening season!). To really highlight the dandelion greens, consider serving with fresh mixed greens salad that includes raw dandelion greens. Fiddleheads are also a great complement to highlight the seasonally foraged nature of the meal.
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 small yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves (or 1 Tablespoon roasted garlic in olive oil)
1 bunch of dandelion greens (about a fist full), stems removed and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup mozzarella or cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 Tablespoon butter
Scallions or chives to sprinkle on top
Salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place your oven rack in the middle position.
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized (10 inch) oven-proof skillet (like this carbon steel skillet from Lodge or a classic cast iron skillet). Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until the onions are beginning to soften and turn slightly brown. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the dandelion greens and a splash of water and cook for about 5-7 minutes or until the greens are softened. Remove the greens mixture from the pan and set aside. Place the butter in the pan to melt.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs then add the cheese, the greens mixture, and salt and pepper. Once the butter in your pan is fully melted, swish it around to coat the entire surface then add the egg mixture back into the pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on the stove top, or until the bottom starts to solidify.
Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the middle of the fritatta is firm and does not jiggle too much when you move the pan.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate by loosening all of the edges with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle with chopped scallions or chives. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm for dinner or cool for brunch. To really highlight the dandelion greens, consider serving with fresh mixed greens salad that includes raw dandelion greens.