Edible Wild Plants – Dandelion Greens
DISCLAIMER: Don’t believe anything I or any body else tells you about edible wild plants. Don’t eat edible wild plants based on what you see in a book or on the inter-net. Get a qualified instructor to show you the plants, and don’t eat them until the instructor shows you how to prepare them, and then eats them him or herself. Be aware that you may be allergic to a plant that someone else can eat without harm. Be sure that any plants that you gather have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Pictured below: Dandelion Greens
Most parts of the Dandelion (Traxacum officinale) are edible, but for right now we’re just going to talk about the greens. Dandelions are pretty easy to identify. The leaves grow in a rosette that is close to the ground and about three to six inches in diameter. The leaves are deeply toothed. In fact, the plant gets its name from the French dent d’leon which means “tooth of the lion.” In the center of the rosette the Dandelion puts up a shoot with a round yellow flower on it. Pictured below: Dandelion flower
In older plants this flower turns into a white puff-ball that kids love to pick and blow on so that the down flies away into the air. Pictured below: Dandelion puff-ball
The green is edible and very nutritious and some will tell you that you can pick it and eat it as a salad green straight off the plant. I must respectfully disagree. These are either (a) people who have never eaten a Dandelion Green, (b) people who are heavy smokers and have no taste buds left, or (c) cruel practical jokers. I have never tasted a fresh Dandelion Green that wasn’t bitter. Maybe they exist, but I haven’t run across them. Fortunately, the chemical that causes Dandelions to be bitter is water soluble, so it is easy to get rid of.
This is the easiest way to prepare Dandelion Greens so that they taste good. Collect a basket of fresh young Dandelion Greens. Gather more than you think you need because they will shrink when you cook them. Chop the greens up into one or two inch pieces and wash them. Bring two pots of water to a good boil. Drop the greens into the first pot and let them boil for three minutes. Pour the boiled greens into a strainer to remove the water, then dump the greens immediately into the second pot of boiling water and boil for another three minutes. Remove the greens from the second pot, strain, add salt and pepper to taste and serve. I like them with a little vinegar sprinkled on them, or better yet, a little Pepper Sauce.
If you want to avoid the boiling, you can wilt Dandelion Greens. Here’s how to wilt greens. Pick a mess of fresh, young Dandelion Greens. Wash the greens and place them on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Fry up several pieces of bacon in a skillet. Pour the hot bacon grease over the greens. Crumble up the bacon and sprinkle it over the greens. Some people like to chop up a hard-boiled egg and add it to the greens. That’s it; time to eat. You can use this same recipe with other types of greens including that lettuce that has started to wilt a little on its own.