Our CSA box this week contains dandelion. We know this is going to catch some people off guard, but we promise that we thought long and hard about including it. If you taste the raw leaves alone, you'll find that they're bitter, even too strong for some people. But don't worry -- there are many ways to use this green.
In fact, we have been selling more and more dandelion over the past two years. Many customers with Eastern European and Mediterranean roots buy dandelion from us, recalling that this early bitter green was a staple of their spring and early-summer meals.
Barb, our resident herbalist on the farm, notes that Dandelion (and other bitter greens) detoxify the liver, which in turn boosts the immune system. Indeed, the detoxifying function of the greens is just what the body craves after a winter of eating a diet lower in fresh fruit and vegetables and higher in fats and meat.
The variety of dandelion we grow is a cultivated variety from Italy that has a red rib down the middle and is tenderer than the wild dandelion you will generally find in your yard. But feel free to use wild dandelion. Just make sure you know the source (i.e. it hasn't been sprayed by gardeners or dogs).
If you receive our CSA box, you'll note that there are other greens in the box this week: Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Parsley and Beet Greens. All of these together with the Dandelion will make an excellent fresh salad or a nice mix of braised or steamed greens.
Dandelion also makes a nice addition to Caesar Salad with the Romaine Lettuce, particularly with the addition of bacon (bacon and dandelion are a nice balance of flavors). Feta is another strong flavor that balances bitter greens nicely and can be added to this or other salad mixes.
Cookthink.com offers a few ideas for dandelion, including this salad of Dandelion, Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnuts. Notice that the pear, blue cheese and walnuts are all stronger flavors that make for a robust salad. Cooktime.com also suggests a Black Pepper Greens recipe that will help to use a good amount of greens in any meal.
Finally, we always ask our market customers how they prepare their dandelion greens. Almost always, their response is the same: Steam the greens lightly, add olive oil or a bit of melted butter and toss with some balsamic vinegar. It's a simple side dish and complements dishes of stronger flavor, such as red meat.
So, here's to experimenting in the kitchen. Have fun and feel free to share your dandelion recipes in the comments section below.