Gentle Reader, it is that euphoric early spring planting season, and this is what is happening at our place during this short but achingly sweet season:
- I am conversing, sometimes daily, with gardening friends, in this vein: “I’ve planted my heirloom tomatoes inside in flats, and have radishes and lettuces up in my hoophouse! Do you need any Green Zebra seeds? I’ve got extra!” and so on.
- I am visiting my parents’ garden, just to admire the pert little row of onions that Mom put in this week, also to marvel at her tulips and vinca and daffodils growing all along the curb.
- I am receiving seeds from seed catalogs in the mail, and from generous friends (those, in tiny homemade seed envelopes). 🙂
- A dear friend stops by and spends the evening walking with Bryan and me around our place, admiring the amount of garden space that will soon be planted; watching the bees fly to and fro; advising us on apple tree pruning, and then picking up a pair of loppers and doing a quick pruning primer on one of the young apple trees.
- Little Mack has strung up a hammock, all by himself, in the side yard, making the outside much more attractive to all of us, and his required reader (that he has been dragging his feet about reading) all the more enticing. Now if only I could figure out a way to drag the piano outside, his practicing would also be attractive to him . . .
And it’s only just begun. This is a thrilling time of planting, pruning, planning, and discovery. And in the midst of it all, I stop myself and stoop and reprimand myself for once again overlooking the humble dandelion. We have plenty of them in our yard (*sigh*) and I really do enjoy a couple of messes of dandelion greens and garlic in the spring, but in the middle of all the gardening hoohah mentioned above, it’s easy to forget the humble dandelion, isn’t it?
Revered since earlier times, dandelion has been the main ingredient of spring tonics for ages. Dandelion is a diuretic and liver stimulant and is believed to be able to restore the system after months of an indoor, sedentary winter lifestyle.
Almost all the parts of the dandelion plant–leaves, flower tops, and roots, are used either for culinary purposes or as a curative remedy for certain medical conditions. Isn’t that extraordinary, that such a frowned-upon plant in the modern world, can have so much usefulness.
Shoot, maybe we should be raising yards of dandelion plants and poisoning the grass (well, we’re half-way there already). 😉 Here are just a few things about dandelions that may cause you to pause before spraying them with poison this spring:
- Dandelion is probably the richest herbal source of vitamin K–it provides about 650% of the daily required amount. What’s vitamin K good for? It plays a large role in building bone mass, for one, and also allows your body to use vitamin D. Also it has an established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Dandelion is rich in many vital vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin E and vitamin C: all which are essential for optimum health. Dandelion greens provide 58% of daily recommended levels of vitamin C.
- Fresh dandelion leaves provide about 338% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, one of the highest sources of vitamin A among culinary herbs. Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, skin and vision.
- Dandelion roots contain detoxifiers that purge various body poisons associated with constipation, joint inflammation, gout, acne, fluid retention, and urinary disorders.
- Dandelion root tea is a great liver stimulant and has been used to treat alcoholism.
There’s much more to this humble little weed, and you can do more reading about the awesomeness of dandelion here, if you’d like.
Dandelion leaves can get bitter, once the buds have opened and the flowers are blooming, so it’s best to harvest them when they are small–in Nebraska, that’s right now! There are lots of ways to introduce young dandelion leaves into your diet–I toss them into salads for a bitter arugula-type tang. I throw them into the skillet with other greens and give them a quick sauté. I coax Amalia into adding them to her stir-fry that she so dearly loves to make. And that I so dearly love her to make. 🙂
This is my favorite way (today, anyway!) to get this valuable herb into my families’ bellies: I sauté dandelion and other greens together with garlic and garlic oil, in this very simple recipe. It makes an easy and amazing springtime lunch, with crusty bread and fried eggs!
- 1 lb fresh dandelion greens (make sure they haven’t been sprayed), washed carefully
- 6-8 green onions, or spring onions, chopped
- 2 or 3 cups assorted greens (chard, cabbage ribbons, spinach, etc.) (optional)
- 12 cloves garlic
- 1 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste, freshly ground
- First, harvest your dandelion greens, cutting clumps about an inch above the ground, using a sharp knife. Put to soak in a large bowl of cold water.
- Put cup of olive oil and garlic cloves into a cast iron skillet and cook the cloves slowly in the oil until they are golden, being very careful not to burn them. Set aside for 30 minutes, to continue to marinade and to cool. The garlic will continue to cook in the hot oil.
- Cut other (optional) greens in strips, set aside.
- Pour the (cooled) oil into a jar for later use, leaving about 2 Tbs of oil and all the garlic cloves in the skillet.
- Drain the dandelion leaves in a colander. Add the greens and onions to the skillet and saute quickly, until the greens are wilted and ready to eat.
- Liberally grind pepper and salt on top, and serve while hot!
A few more dandelion tips:
- Only harvest dandelions where you know they haven’t been sprayed.
- I allow a few dandelion plants to grow along the edges of my garden and hoophouse, just for spring eating.
- Once the flowers have blossomed, you can eat them, too! But that’s another post and recipe!
- I cut a clump (this was my mother’s idea) every morning for my canary, and he loves it.
- In the fall, I cut dandelion leaves and dry them, and toss them into soup all winter long.
- “Making Dough with Artisan Breads” Farmer’s Market ebook available!
- “Pecos Bill” at the Warren Opera House in Friend