Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dandelion Greens

These are one of season’s earliest foods and are best when they have just emerged. Avoid big, tough-looking bundles at your produce shop. While dandelion greens are cultivated to be larger when sold as food, look for the small young bundle. Of course you can still pick your own from the local field if you wish. In this case you can feel comforted in knowing that there are no poisonous look-alikes, but you do have to be mindful of any treatments locals may have used in an attempt to kill the oft-hated yellow flower followed by the puff-ball they produce.

Dandelions are the most nutritious leafy vegetable you can find. They are said to support digestion, reduce swelling and inflammation, and treat viruses, jaundice, edema, gout, eczema and acne. Its medicinal and diuretic properties are so strong that the French call it pissenlit, which means literally 'wet the bed'. So take care to not over-indulge!

If you are familiar with chicory or endive you will find dandelions of a similar, bitter taste. While bitter foods are not commonly popular today, you should know that the dandelion's protective bitterness disappears after a good frost. Remember this if you are harvesting your own. To reduce the bitterness of the store-bought variety in your kitchen, consider boiling the cut-up leaves for 10 minutes in salted water before sautéing in olive oil with garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. In this fashion, they make an excellent side dish. Dandelion greens are also nice in salads when combined with lettuce and accompanied by dried sweetened cranberries and roasted walnuts.

If you are looking for something a bit different, give dandelion greens a try. And then, if the economy goes totally into the tanks, you'll know where to find an inexpensive, totally nutritious side dish or salad for your family.

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