So I've been crunching recipes for a workshop I'm doing at the Mothergrove festival next month on incorporating wild plants into cooking. I made this one last night to test the recipe, and while I overdid the red pepper a bit (I think I drank half a gallon of ice tea), it turned out surprisingly well. The taste is a bit like mustard greens or endive.
Dandelion greens are full of iron and calcium (more than spinach), vitamin C, and A. Before they produce flowers in the spring the leaves are mild and perfect for salads. After the flowers appear, the greens get bitter, but the bitterness can be alleviated by pre-boiling and tempering with sweet ingredients. The high iron content makes them a traditional medicine to treat anemia and jaundice.
Make sure to correctly identify dandelion greens, as there are several look-alikes which are not poisonous, according to field guides, but are decidedly more bitter and even a few mixed in can throw a dish. Here's a decent intro to plants that are commonly mistaken for dandelions. Hairy/spiny leaves, branching or woody stems, or leaves growing from the flower stem itself are all signs that you do not have a dandelion.
Also be sure to avoid collecting greens in lawns that have been treated with pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers not intended for food crops within the past two years. Do not collect by roadsides where runoff could contaminate the plant. Always wash wild-collected plants thoroughly before using. People with latex sensitivities may have a reaction to dandelion leaves and stems, but anyone introducing a new plant into their diet should do so slowly and cautiously in case of allergic reaction.
Spicy Dandelion Greens
4 side-dish size servings
2 lbs dandelion greens, about 8 cups by measure, which looks like many times more than you need, but the volume will shrink considerably during cooking. Discard any that are discolored or insect-eaten.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste) or chopped chile pepper to taste.
3 medium cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional, but tasty)
3/4 cups raisins (regular or golden) if using greens harvested after flowers appear on the plant in spring. This is to offset the bitterness, so it isn't necessary if using young spring greens.
bring water with 1 tablespoon sea salt to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the greens.
wash the greens well, removing any stems left on the leaves. Cut into rough 2-inch sections cross-wise (across the leaf)
Boil greens for 4 minutes
Drain in colander and rinse well with cold water, pressing the leaves to remove as much moisture as you can.
Heat olive oil in pan or wok until hot (medium-high heat) but not smoking.
Add Garlic and sautee for 30 seconds
Add the greens, pepper, pine nuts, 1/2 teaspoon salt and raisins. Sautee for three minutes or until moisture is removed from greens.
Add lemon juice and continue to sautee for an additional minute, or until greens start to crisp a bit around the edges.
If you don't have a safe source for dandelion greens nearby, you can substitute any bitter green in this recipe, including mustard greens, endive, escarole, turnip greens or chicory. The cooking time may need to be adjusted; turnip greens need to be boiled longer, endive can be just blanched or skip the boiling and go right to the pan, and so on depending on the bitterness and toughness of the greens.