Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dandelions

When I got to the garden last Monday to start prep work for seeding, I discovered a bumper crop of dandelions. Having just returned from my "Wild Edible Adventure" where I learned all about harvesting dandelions, I decided to experiment and judge whether or not dandelions could ever be more than a nuisance to us.
10 dandelions per 2 square feet = a lot of dandelions
First, here's a little dandelion trivia for you to consider:
  • Every part of the dandelion is edible - roots, leaves, buds, flowers (you could probably even eat the fluffy stuff)
  • Dandelions are a low calorie, nutrient rich food that outperforms regular lettuce in all the major nutrients. Here's a listing for 1 cup of raw dandelion greens from the USDA. Nutritive Value of Dandelions
  • Dandelion greens are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K
  • People use different parts of dandelions for all sorts of herbal and medicinal uses.
And, some other interesting links with information about dandelions:
  • Saskatchewan Agriculture has information about growing dandelion crops for cash.
  • Ford Motor Company is looking at dandelions for a rubber alternative.
  • The New York Times has a recipe for dandelion jelly.
  • The Food Network has a recipe by Christine Cushing for dandelion salad.  Christine's commentary includes   "Dandelion greens are available at most supermarkets from early spring until winter. If you can't find them..."  I'm sure we could spare a few for Christine's readers if they can't find them!

There certainly is a lot of evidence to support that there are some benefits to dandelions, but is the flavour and the effort to harvest them worth it?

Dandelion leaves
If you like arugula, you'll probably like tender, young dandelion leaves used in a salad.  I find them bitter and would only use a few mixed in with regular lettuce for a hint of spiciness.  The leaves are easy to harvest and there are certainly a lot of them around!

Dandelion buds (the tightly closed buds that haven't blossomed yet)
We boiled them to take out some of the bitterness and then fried them in butter and added a little pepper.  These were OK, but I didn't see anyone go for a second helping!  If you don't like brussel sprouts, you probably wouldn't like these either.  Easy to harvest and prepare.

Dandelion Flowers
Definitely a tasty little treat that I would make again. Deep fried dandelion flowers in a whole wheat flour and ground flax seed batter.  Delicious!  Easy to harvest and prepare.

Dandelion Roots
These take a little more effort to prepare.  When I discovered all those dandelions in our garden plot, I knew it would be the perfect time to harvest the roots.  Here's how: 
Dig the roots, wash them, scrub and wash them again, cut them into 1/2 inch pieces, roast them for 2-3 hours at 250 degrees and then put them into a blender.  Put through a sieve to separate the larger pieces from the fine powder.  Use the larger pieces for dandelion coffee and the fine powder as a cocoa substitute in baking.




Probably could have let them get a little darker.


Dandelion Coffee/Tea
I used the coarse, roasted dandelion roots to make a dandelion coffee, apparently this beverage is enjoyed around the world by people not addicted to caffeine!

Add 1 tbsp of dandelion root to 1 cup of boiling water.  Boil for 2 minutes and simmer for 20 minutes.

Pour into your favourite mug and add cream or sugar like you would with your  coffee.
The verdict:  Well, I didn't cough and sputter like I did when I had my first cup of "real" coffee.  It is a little bitter, but not nearly as bitter as coffee.  I'm sure I could acquire a taste for it, but it sure is a lot of work!

Dandelion Cake
I've just whipped up a batch of our favourite chocolate zucchini cake.  The kids and Darryl are out of the house and don't know that I've substituted dandelion root powder for the cocoa.  Will they taste the difference?  Stay tuned to tomorrow's blog post to find out.  If they like it, I'll post the recipe.  

I still haven't tried dandelion jelly or dandelion wine, but WolfSong, a veggiedelight follower, seems to enjoy it.  Perhaps she'll share her family recipe with us.

After all this experimenting, would I recommend dandelions to anyone?  Yes, I certainly recommend trying them, it's fun to experiment and to learn more about the plants around you.  If nothing else, it's certainly a conversation piece.  Will dandelions be a regular menu item in the Stewart household?  I think they'll probably make an annual appearance to mark the arrival of spring, but I doubt they'll become a staple.  

3 comments:

WolfSong said...

I have been wanting to try the dandelion coffee. I think it would be a good skill to have, making coffee from the roots, should the Zombies ever rise up and take over the local Tim Hortons. *grins*

jenn said...

The fritters sound really interesting. Did you happen to fry them in local MB canola oil?

Getty Stewart said...

Yes, of course! Must admit, I didn't harvest and press my own canola. :)