Working Weeds Into Everyday Meals

Now that we’re into zone 6 spring I got my radish, spinach, kale and cabbage seeds started a few weeks ago, and even with protection from the elements, they’ve only just started germinating a few days ago. I’m not worried. They’ll catch up.

Many perennials are waking up now and some are already ready to eat. Garlic and dandelions are two such plants. They get right to work, pretty much as soon as the snow melts. Lately I’ve been working garlic tops and dandelion crowns into most of the meals I cook.

I am a fan of dandelions. Taraxacum officiale grows pretty much all over the world. As such, they are part of the traditional food ways of many cultures. They are especially enjoyed in springtime when they are in their prime both for flavor and nutritional content. Old traditions say that dandelion is a tonic for the liver and kidneys and are recommended as a “spring cleaning” for the body systems. Dandelions may also concentrate calcium in their leaves. At any rate, the diuretic properties of the dandelion can be experienced by anyone who eats to many as they may experience an increase in urination. Maybe don’t drink dandelion tea before bedtime?

Dandelion roots

Every part of the dandelion is edible. As I’m weeding the garden, any dandelions that have overstayed their welcome get dug out. Once washed, I save the roots and dry them for tea or steep them in cider vinegar. I keep a long-steeped burdock/dandelion root vinegar which I also work into most of the things I cook (deglaze the frying pan with this!!) Greens are eaten fresh. If I don’t get the whole root, I don’t mind. it will grow back and I will harvest again. No need to dig and wash dandelions every day! No one has time for that! If I have a lot of weeds to pull, I can harvest and wash a whole bunch at once and keep them in the fridge for easy access. Later in the season, dandelion stems and blossoms start turning up in my meals.

The bitter taste of dandelion greens may be too much for modern palates. Try adding just a little to your favorite leaves for a salad to build up your taste for this magnificent herb (HINT: salt and acid will help neutralize some of this strong flavor, especially good with fresh lemon if it’s available!)

If salad is not something you salivate over, chopped cooked dandelion greens can easily be worked into soups, lentils, tomato sauce, ramen, Mac and cheese, rice, almost anything! I think Dandelion can easily be substituted in Any recipe that calls for endive. I often use dandelion in place of lettuce when making sandwiches and wraps.

If you want to make a dandelion dish that will please almost anyone, try adding sautéed garlic (lots of garlic!) and dandelion to scrambled eggs! Add cheese and you’ll be in breakfast heaven.

The trick to working weeds and other wild foods into your diet isn’t about harvesting massive baskets of dandelion and eating them breakfast lunch and dinner. It’s about working them into the dishes you already know and recognizing that many of the plants people consider to be “nuisances” actually have long histories as food and medicine. It’s about doing “a little of this” and “a little of that”. By weeding my garden I am also sourcing a versatile nutritional ingredient. I try to plan my meals around whatever seasonal bounties are available. One function facilitates the next. if you practice small steps like this, you too can live in better harmony with your local biome.

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