Dandelions are the bane of many a gardeners existence. They grow everywhere. The are yellow pests that your kids will pick from time to time to give you a flower. I know I did when I was a kid and my kids have done it for me, but when they turned their backs I secretly crushed the stupid flower and threw it’s yellow and orange petals in the trash where they belonged. As Treebeard said in Lord of the Rings, “There is not curse in Elvish, Entish or the tongues of man for this treachery”
Dandelions originally were thought to have started growing in Eurasia some 30 million years ago. Immigrants have brought them to virtually the rest of the known world. Yup that’s right. Europeans brought them over, likely as a food source and seeing as how dandelions seem to grow wherever they darn well please, the rest is history.
While in my backyard last summer I was lamenting the fact that so many had popped up in my yard seemingly overnight. I had put down some chemicals early in the spring but i think that only made them grow faster. While tending to my tomatoes I noticed that a smaller plant had sprung up behind the vines out of view. It wasn’t all that big but big enough to catch my eye. I pulled it from the ground and then noticed something I’d never noticed before; those leaves looked mighty tasty.
I sat there contemplating for a minute. I remembered that you could make tea out of dandelions and that some people had used them in salads. The light bulb was growing brighter. As I sat and thought some more I decided what the heck and began chewing on the leaf. It was somewhat bitter, kind of like arugula but not half bad. I then knew I had discovered my new best friend.
It had been several months since I’d laid the chemicals down and the ones I was picking were in an area where no chemicals had been put down at all. I gathered some of the ones I could find, cleaned them and then the cooking began.
Nathan Spinelli’s Dandelion Soup
Younger dandelion leaves, as many as you want
2 cloves garlic
1 pinch saffron
1 quart chicken stock or water
You can pretty much add anything else you want that you might like in soup 🙂
Younger leaves are best because the older ones are really bitter and you may have to simmer them in some hot water a couple of times with a teaspoon or two of baking soda to get them to mellow out. Younger leaves are much more mild.
Put the stock or water into a pot and heat on medium. Mince garlic and add into broth with saffron. Add salt to taste. Chop leaves or leave them whole and add to broth, along with arugula. Add chorizo and let simmer for a few minutes until flavors blended well. Badda bing badda bang you’ve got yourself some soup. You can also adds some flowers to float on top for decoration. Remember that the flowers are edible too.
The great thing about it is that you can do whatever you want with this and still probably be fine. I also add the leaves to my salads like I would arugula. I’ve got a completely different outlook on this wonderful little plant. The best part is I don’t have to do a thing to grow it. I just harvest whenever I need some. I stay away from the front yard just because I’m not sure what my neighbor may put on his lawn and ours is connected with his, but in the back I no longer see weeds but salad and soup and anything else that I can think of.
In addition to being easy to cultivate dandelions have a great nutritional profile. While being a leafy green (with all the benefits like antioxidants and beta-carotene) dandelions can promote healthy digestion and is useful for indigestion. This is likely why they are used in teas.
So remember that sometimes the most annoying things can turn out to be a great gift, if you look at it in the right way. If you have any tasty way to prepare dandelions let me know in the comments below.