Dandelion weeds contain more vitamins A, C, calcium & iron than spinach
- Let diet flower - add dandelion greens to mix
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Early spring is the perfect time to eat your weeds - dandelions, that is. Many people struggle with the never-ending spread of their backyard dandelion, not knowing they've got a highly nutritious and delicious vegetable in their lawns.
You can't mistake dandelion greens, with their characteristic long jagged leaves, hence the root of its name dents de lion, French for a lion's teeth. The leaves are tastiest when young with a bitter flavor similar to chicory.
Cup per cup, the fleeting, seasonal greens contain more vitamins A, C, calcium and iron than spinach, so load up while you can. It has diuretic properties, as the French calls the plant pissenlit, en lit meaning in bed.
The roots, when ground and roasted, make a fine coffee substitute that can be homemade or found in some natural food stores.
But while this weed may be growing in your yard and others, best not to pick them unless you're absolutely sure the area hasn't been sprayed with any pesticide or lawn treatment - or visited by neighborhood dogs. Stores and farmers' markets are your safest bets.
How to select: Like many greens, the younger the better. Bitterness increases with age, as does toughness. Choose dandelions with slender stems, tender leaves, and if you forage your own, do not eat when the plants are flowering as they become unpleasantly bitter.
How to store: In the refrigerator, but if not used for a few days, wrap dandelions in a moist paper towel to delay wilting.
When in season: The leaves are edible in early spring and fall.
How to use: Dandelion greens are extremely versatile. They can be sauteed, steamed or used in soups. The sturdier ones can even be batter-fried like tempura, and as for the delicate babies, try them in a full-flavored salad.
Their bitterness pairs well with sweet vegetables. Blanch them in boiling salted water if you prefer them less bitter, although some vitamins will inevitably be lost.
Pailin Chongchitnant is a student at the California Culinary Academy. E-mail comments to food@....
This article appeared on page L - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle