Pest or gift, they live in our memories in so many ways!
Long before the peas grow and blossom and fruit, when tomato plants are just inches high, and well before even the radishes are ready to slice, the weeds begin to grow in the garden and lawn. If the weeds happen to be dandelions, it’s not all bad news!
Love and hate
I have a long, mostly love sometimes hate, relationship with dandelions. They have been, and continue to be, some of the most beautiful bouquets in my life, picked by little hands and offered in wonderment at the beauty growing free in the world. They are priceless gifts. As children, we also teach each other to make a wish and blow the fluffy seed heads into the wind. Magical. Sometimes, those wishes came true.
Foraging with the best
My Uncle Leonard was a great forager. He used to pick the greens in early spring when they were young and he would braise them with pork parts and a bit of onion, and delighted in just this for supper. Maybe a biscuit to sop up the broth. If he was lucky, his foraging ventures would bring some fiddleheads, ramps, or delightful wild morels to the pot. He was usually lucky, but then again, he knew where and how to look. If I was lucky, he would bring me along and show me where the best stuff grew. I think of these early spring treasures as great seasonal companions on the table, and have joined them stewed, sautéed, and in soups and salads. So good, and so very nutritious, especially after a long winter without the luxury of picking something green.
A craving like no other
When I was pregnant for my second child, I craved dandelion greens, but unfortunately it was winter so I was out of luck. I tried everything, spinach, chard, even soggy-looking canned beet greens. It was really a desperate craving, with no satisfaction. They were all I wanted and I remember feeling like I must be crazy. The week after she was born, the dandelions appeared in the yard. I didn’t want them any longer.
I also tried to make dandelion wine once. It was an old recipe that mother had, but she didn’t know where she got it and said she never made it herself. I was intrigued at the idea of using weeds for a special treat. It called for baskets of dandelion flowers, honey, and beautiful citrus fruits. When it was ready to sample, its aroma was out of the world, so fragrant and enticing. I had a party and invited friends over to sample.
It tasted like old compost.
I don’t know to this day what I did wrong, or perhaps it was meant to taste like this? But I never gave it another try since it was so much work! That’s the hate part.
Something to love
This salad is one of the love parts, and is hardly any work at all. While dandelion greens have become a bit trendy and you can easily find them at farmers markets and co-ops, it’s fun to pick your own, right from the yard! Make sure they are not growing in a spot that has had any pesticides or herbicides applied, especially if they are growing close to a neighbor’s perfectly groomed, herbicide-manicured yard.
Every part is edible
Every inch of the dandelion plant is edible, the greens, the flower buds, the flowers. The root is dried and made into a tea, and you can usually find it in the bulk section of most food co-ops and health food stores. Probably the next wonder food, or maybe it already was but I was busy and missed it.
Degrees of bitterness
While the greens are a bit bitter, if you pick them when they are very young, the bitterness is mild. However, if you wait until they are full grown and flowering, they will be much more bitter, even for me, but you can still blanch them to remove some of that and use them in soups, stews, and stir-fries.
You may love them, or you may hate them, but they are certainly worth a try, especially after a long winter.
Or you can just wait until they go to seed and blow wishes into the wind.
Wild Dandelion Salad with Chickpeas and Morel Mushrooms with a Simple Lemon Vinaigrette
- Wild dandelion greens, rinsed and dried
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp. fresh chives, minced
- A handful of morel mushrooms, cut in half
- A few dandelion flowers
- The zest from the lemon
Wash the greens and spin or towel dry. Set aside.
Combine the olive oil and lemon juice, whisk well, add salt and pepper to taste, along with about a tablespoon of roughly chopped dandelion leaves, thyme, and garlic. Pour this over the chickpeas and let sit for 15 minutes.
In a small skillet, add a bit of olive oil and toss in the morels with a bit of salt. Sauté until soft.
Assemble the salad: Arrange a layer of dandelion leaves and add a spoonful of the chickpeas. Toss on a few morels, and drizzle with a bit more of the dressing from the chickpeas.
Garnish with the chives and petals from the dandelions, and scatter the lemon zest on top.
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66 Comments Add yours
My grandmother made dandelion salad and I loved it as a child.
It’s one of those things that you are not sure you like, but you want it again. Like kombucha!
While dandelion greens are too bitter for my taste, I enjoyed your adventures with this plant.
Your dandelion wine story reminded me of the time I tried a Martha Stewart recipe for cranberry cordial. The directions appeared in one of Martha’s Thanksgiving Special t.v. programs.
I followed the recipe faithfully including stowing the bottles away in a cool place for a year! To my dismay time had not improved the flavor, which was like cranberry cough syrup. The experience made me leery of her recipes but still a Martha fan.
Here’s her Dandelion Salad:
And Cranberry Cordial:
It’s interesting that she used garlic scapes in her salad since they appear much later in the season than the local young dandelions, but perhaps she had her staff buy them at the farmers market!
I’m not sure I’d want to try that cordial!
Love dandelions and dandelion salad. This one looks yummy. And dandelions are great for bees! My uncle makes all kinds of wine (onion wine, anyone?), I’m now going to ask him if he’s ever made dandelion wine. Great post
Onion wine, now that’s a new one on me! My imagination is running away with me!
Your salad is such a beautiful celebration of the season, Dorothy! Here in France, doctors recommend eating young dandelion leaves as a spring tonic (its name ‘le pissenlit’ is a reminder of the diuretic properties) and I like to mix a few with whatever other salad leaves we have to hand. As a child in the UK, they were regarded as rabbit food only so I’m thrilled that such a wonderfully beneficial plant is now enjoying the popularity it deserves. Yes, I’m an unapologetic fan! 😊
I love the French name, and I’m using it from now on! Thank you Lis!
These greens, and so many other wild shoots, are such good spring tonic, said to clean the blood and liven the energy channels. All I know is I crave greens of all kinds at this time of year!
What a great childhood memory! I loved finding dandelions as a child~ as for the salad, I’d have to pass 🙂
It’s definitely a personal choice! Just enjoy their simple beauty!
Great post. Takes me back to when my father loved to make dandelion salad and my Granfather made wine from his garden grapes.
Now, I’m all for homemade wine from grapes!
I’ve never tried making dandelion wine, but use it in many recipes. I like the pairing with chickpeas! 🙂
They were great together, Ronit!
Don’t make the wine…
Thank you, Dorothy, for the salad and your writing. I love dandelions!
They are so tasty this time of year! Everyone should eat the weeds!
They are too beautiful and useful to be weeds, they are just plants that grow in wrong places, according to some people.
Yes, plants where you don’t want them, like in lawns. I’ve always been of the mind that if it is green, it can stay in my lawn!
Thank you, Dorothy, we think alike!
I have heard that dandelion greens are quite healthy too. I wish I would have experimented more with them in Kansas, they were so plentiful there. I can relate with your wine story, I’ve had several fails myself trying to follow the recipe and didn’t turn out anything like I expected.
I think I just didn’t know what I was doing and probably made some critical errors.
Or dandelion wine smells wonderful but tastes awful!
You had me at wine, Dorothy! Now I’m looking around at the dandelions in the lawn in a new way 😉
They are a pretty amazing plant! Used medicinally for millennia, eaten with delight for as long. Played and decorated with by children for even longer!
I know that Dandelion leaves are a healthy option in a salad but have never had them. I would love those lovely yellow petals on my salad along with all the other edible flowers. Salads can look so beautiful- almost too good to chew up! With my luck I would probably pick the wrong stuff anyway, so I’ll just leave it to the knowledgeable ones. :))
You would probably do fine Mary, but if you like just visit your local farmers market or co-op, they do the selection for you!
Most importantly, Miss Dandelion is a beauty! When we lived in subdivisions, I removed the dandelions from the lawn like all my neighbors. Living on a couple of acres, I always view them as a gift of yellow flowers. They also bring back memories of my Grandmother digging them to cook as greens. She would come visit us and walk all around to see if we had any. Makes me smile just thinking about it. 🙂
Such lovely memories! A gift of yellow flowers is the perfect description, especially since they arrive so early!
Miss Dandelion has gifted me many a bouquet!
Dorothy, this is such a sweet post! I love hearing about your Uncle – such lovely memories. It’s funny that you posted this, because just yesterday as I was leaving a friend’s house, a young girl probably the same age as your Little Miss Dandelion approached me and asked if I would like some flowers. I glanced over to the neighboring house and noticed a table set up with tiny jars filled with hyacinth and grape hyacinth, and the prettiest arrangement had dandelions added in to add a cheerful splash of yellow. I asked her if she was selling flowers, and she said no, that she was giving them away! I picked the arrangement with the dandelions (it was the prettiest), and thanked her profusely. I felt like I had been blessed by an angel. Thank you for your post!
What a delightful story Angela! I can see that sweet little Miss, sharing her wonderful treasures and spreading joy! A beautiful new memory!
i once tried to make marigold wine with wild flowers but ewww no good. Loved blowing the seeds as kids.
Blowing the seeds was the best. Still is!
Dandelions are really amazing plants if you can eat every part of it including the root. I had no idea that they were trendy and you could use them in so many different ways. But I had to laugh at the compost-tasting wine and the craving for the plant that arrived when you no longer wanted it.
That old knowledge of using all of a plant in differing ways is disappearing.
When I was a kid, it seems the old timers used every possible thing as food, especially wild foods.
A environmentally sound practice
We need to listen to the past, so much is wasted today without a thought. Perhaps we’ve all had it too easy in many ways.
Indeed. At the risk of making a wild statement. Comfort breeds laziness.
A delighful post of memories and a salad, Dorothy..my father used to make dandelion wine he used to sit in his..they are man caves now with Mr Hoad next door and have a few glasses he would then stumble in the back door giggling and my mother used to get pretend cross with him now I know what happened next or can guess but back then I didn’t we just laughed at my father being chatised by my mother…Thank you for the memories, Dorothy 🙂
That’s a great story Carol! I can see it quite vividly. I’m glad he enjoyed his dandelion wine!
He most certainly did-smile-
This made me smile because my grandparents once made dandelion wine, and I think their impression of it was the same as yours! Haha
I could never consume the dandelions here because our HOA is overzealous on the destruction of dandelions, but I’ve seen them at the organic farmers’ market. One day, I’ll have to try them!
Well, Terrie, maybe that is the way it is supposed to taste! Had a beautiful aroma though!
You know how people have bumper stickers like “I BRAKE FOR TAG SALES”? My very Sicilian mother should have had one that read ‘I BREAK FOR DANDELIONS”! Her antennae shot up every time she spotted dandelion plants along the side of the road. We’d have to stop so she could jump out and pick them. After a really good cleaning, she’d cook her highway finds into something amazing. Thanks for the memories, D!
Ha ha! I can picture that little old lady gleaning all the wild goods from the side of the road! My grandmother would have done the same thing, only she’d probably be digging up sun chokes which she simply called sunflowers, although that is not what they were.
My Mom use to make dandelion salad! And I believe she used a hot vinaigrette on it. And I too have had Dandelion Wine from a winery in Ohio. Great post!
Thank you Nancy! I hope the wine was better than what I made!
It actually wasn’t bad but I also didn’t buy any! lol!
Hahaha… not break. I meant BRAKE. But I could see her breaking out the trusty knife she always used for opportunities such as these!
She probably kept it in her apron pocket!
She did! Hahaha!!
When I think of many of the women in my family, they always had an apron on even when they weren’t cooking, Some of them were pretty lovely too, almost like dresses over their clothes, And always those pockets holding all kinds of useful things.
Some of my female relatives wore “housecoats” constantly and they were “well used”, to put it nicely. My mom was too proper for that saying “Why wear a stained “nightgown” when a pretty apron is so much more refined?” Mom was not the most ‘flexible’ in her thinking! 😂
Yes, “housecoats!” I’d forgotten that. Almost like wearing two outfits at the same time.
True, but my aunts usually just wore the housecoat without a dress underneath. It was comfy but sometimes they did get stained and my aunts didn’t seem to care much. Neither would we if they at least took them off when company came calling! 😂
Dandelions are part of my childhood too! 🌼 so many good memories 💕 as a kid I’ve found the greens in the salad a bit bitter but where perfect for a crown 😉
My Miss Dandelion agrees!
I like your version of dandelion salad. I will be picking a bunch this week in my yard and look forward to making your recipe! Especially with the flower petals YUM!!! 🙂
Thanks Eva! Enjoy those spring nutrients, and the flowers!
I didn’t realize every part of the dandelion was edible! It makes a pretty and colorful salad! 🙂
It’s one of those wonderful plants that probably kept a lot of humans alive after a tough winter.
That is so funny about your pregnancy! I made a salad from them once but they were too bitter for me.
I think I was craving that bitterness, but the smaller leaves are not nearly so bitter.
When I was a young girl, my grandmother would take me to fields to pick dandelion greens. She knew exactly when to pick them…probably nice and early so the leaves are tender. She made salad and knew exactly how to add the perfect dressing. My uncle made dandelion wine too. Thanks for posting your recipe. I would like to try it. It is perfect for vegetarians and dandelions are found right in nature. I just have to find a field that is pesticide free! Carole
Thank you for sharing your memories, how wonderful! I hope your grandfather’s dandelion wine was better than mine!