Dandelions once were staple foodstuffs for peoplePublished 10:58pm Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Before dandelions became the scourge of well-manicured lawns and picture-perfect, equestrian pastures, the rugged, colorful and masterful plants were staple foodstuffs of our ancestors.
Some biblical authorities consider them to be one of the first “bitter herbs” mentioned in the Old Testament. Tradition says that dandelions were, perhaps, the first green food that Adam and Eve ate after being banished from the Garden of Eden.
Dandelions were brought to the New World by early colonists and were profusely cultivated around their settlements. The rugged, fast-growing plants were eaten both raw and cooked, and were used in making a coffee-like hot drink and wine.
The leaves contain more vitamins and minerals than many other leafy plants. They were favorite salad builders, sometimes mixed with leaves of yellow dock, or were added as sprigs to cooked vegetables as seasoning.
There were several well-liked recipes for dandelions in the Dark Corner. A few oldsters still prepare them, even today.
Young, tender leaves are gathered early in the morning and wiped clean with a water-soaked cloth, instead of heavy washing in water.
A couple of fatback strips are rendered in a frying pan under low heat. Then, two or three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar are added to the pan before pouring the mixture over the leaves and adding salt and pepper.
Another version is slightly browning small onion pieces in butter or olive oil in a frying pan, adding tablespoons of cider vinegar and pouring over the leaves. Top the wilted leaves with slices of hard boiled eggs.
Leaves, both larger and tender young ones, are boiled as vegetables and served like spinach, seasoned with cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Hard-boiled egg slices go well here, too.
Tender, young, yellow spring blossoms are also eaten but require several steps in preparation. The blossoms are soaked in salt water for several hours and strained. Then, they are fried like mushrooms in butter or olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
The colorful, tender blossoms are also used in a variety of recipes for making dandelion wine.
Dandelion roots continue to be used in herbal medicines, but are also used in making a flavorful, hot beverage. Good quality roots are washed thoroughly, dried and slow roasted. When the roasted roots are steeped in boiling water, a delightful, coffee-like beverage is created.
Since roasted dandelion roots contain no caffeine, the beverage can be a “night cap” late in the evening without affecting sleep routines.
Roasted dandelion roots mix especially well with milk. Steep one heaping teaspoon of the roasted root in a cup of hot (not boiling) milk for five to 10 minutes and strain off the root pieces. Sweeten to taste. The resultant liquid tastes like rich cream, but with far less calories.
Still another food source for dandelions takes place in late autumn and early winter.
Collect a number of healthy dandelion plants. Pick off all the leaves, with the crowns of the plants and the roots undisturbed. Plant them as thick as they will fit into flower pots, in any kind of garden soil, with the crowns on a level with the edge of the pots.
Give the crowns one good watering to settle the soil around the roots. When they have drained, set the pots away in any corner of a completely dark, warm cellar. After a time, depending on the temperature, you will find that the dandelions will send up shoots of stark whiteness.
When the shoots are three to four inches high, they are cut and made into a fresh salad that is colorful and crisp, with a delicious nutty flavor.
For a nostalgic, flavorful foodstuff experience this summer, find some wild dandelions (where you have never sprayed Roundup) and try some of these ancestral recipes.