Most of us know that dandelion greens are edible, but beyond that, how many of us have actually eaten them?
Do you wonder how to pick them or when? Have you heard they’re bitter? Or are you stumped by the obvious question – “What the heck do you do with them?”
Despite most people’s aversion to this ‘weed’ that shows up everywhere in the spring, dandelions are incredibly versatile. You can make so many wonderful things with the petals, from mead to salve. You can even make coffee using the long taproot.
Oh, my friends, as someone who has been eating the weeds my whole life, I can tell you that once you taste your first dandelion green pizza or sauteed dandelion greens with eggs, they will be a regular spring staple on your table.
Let’s jump right in and get you nibbling on these tasty backyard greens.
It’s best to enjoy dandelion greens in the spring when they’re new and tender and before the summer heat makes them too bitter to be palatable. Be sure to pick dandelions where you know they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.
It’s best to pick dandelion greens in the morning before the sun dries the dew. You can pick them by hand or use a pair of scissors to cut them.
Preparing Dandelion Greens for Cooking
Like most greens, you’ll need to rinse dandelion greens well in cold water. Use a salad spinner to dry off the leaves. You should always trim off the longer (more bitter) stems, leaving you with the tender leaves.
If you aren’t cooking them right away, you can store dandelion greens in a lidded plastic food container with a paper towel in the bottom. Greens kept this way in the fridge will stay fresh for about a week.
Bye, Bye Bitter
One of the things you’ll hear time and again is how bitter dandelion greens are. Yes, they are a bitter green but don’t let that stop you from sampling them. Their bitterness is part of their charm.
Bitterness is an important flavor in cooking, and bitter foods improve digestion by causing your stomach to release more acid, which in turn helps break down food more efficiently.
Dishes that would otherwise be bland on their own – beans and pasta, for example, are improved with a hint of bitterness. And you can always balance out bitter flavors with a little sweetness, a touch of honey or sugar.
Whenever you’re cooking dandelion greens, you can remove some of their natural bitterness in one of two ways. The first is to soak them in cold, well-salted water for 10 minutes. The other way is to blanch dandelion greens for two minutes in salted boiling water, then cool them in cold water.
This simple way of preparing dandelion greens is probably the best way to try eating them for the first time. They are quick to whip up with minimal ingredients. And the best part is with this simple recipe, you’ll have greens that you can eat as is or use in other recipes, like the dandelion green pizza below.
2. Dandelion Green Pizza
We’re going to kick things off with one of my favorite ways to eat dandelion greens – on top of my favorite food. The slight bitterness of the greens goes perfectly with mozzarella, tangy goat cheese and sundried tomatoes.
You can use a premade crust or whip up one using your favorite recipe. I’m a huge fan of Beth’s pizza crust over at BudgetBytes.
Spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese over the crust. Then top it with shredded mozzarella cheese. Next, add a thin layer of sauteed dandelion greens and sundried tomatoes. Finish by crumbling goat cheese over the top.
Bake your pizza according to the directions if you’re using a premade pizza crust or according to the recipe for a homemade crust.
Cut and enjoy!
How about dandelion greens for breakfast? Everyone needs a solid breakfast to get the day off on the right foot. It’s hard to beat eggs nestled in with lightly sauteed dandelion greens and leeks. The mild flavor of the leeks goes perfectly with the slight bitterness of the dandelions. And it all comes together when you toss in some crumbled bacon.
A simple slice of toasted bread is an opportunity for a great appetizer. You can serve up so many great flavors and textures on top of toast. Everyone’s done the tomato-based bruschetta; why not take a new approach to this classic with dandelion greens?
It all starts with sauteed dandelion greens with plenty of garlic. While this recipe calls for shredded mozzarella, I decided to use fresh, sliced mozzarella (why not make your own?) to bring out the contrast between the flavors and textures in this simple appetizer.
Serve this side by side with a tomato bruschetta for a colorful and delicious hors d’oeuvres.
Do you need a healthy and filling dinner in a flash? Send the kids out to pick some dandelion greens and grab a couple of cans of beans. Yet again, pairing the vibrant, green flavor of the greens with a more subdued flavor, like beans, creates the perfect combination.
While the skillet dinner was quite filling on its own, I think this would be great served over steamed rice for a heartier dish. A few dashes of hot sauce bring the whole thing together.
I love the warmth of this pasta dish. The sauteed garlic and the simple flavor of pasta with olive oil mellow the tang of the greens. The whole thing comes together in a comforting yet impressive dish. If you’re planning a dinner party where you want to serve something unusual, give this pasta dish a try.
I can vouch for the leftovers being even better the day after. I enjoyed my leftovers cold for lunch, and it went from fancy entrée to tasty cold pasta salad.
7. Salad with Dandelion Greens
Finally, if you want to spruce up a boring salad, don’t forget to add some dandelion greens. Go easy when adding them to tossed salads, as their strong flavor can easily overpower most lettuces. Add a small handful of roughly chopped dandelion greens, much like you would add arugula or radicchio.
Perhaps after eating a few dishes, you’ll be ready to stop waging war against these sunny yellow flowers and encourage their growth in your yard.
And don’t forget there are endless ways to use the dandelion flowers, too.