Foodie Friday: Dandelion Salad Recipe

In early spring my grandmother used to forage a ridiculous amount of dandelions on her morning walks and make amazing dandelion salads. You may be prejudiced against dandelions because you’ve bought them in the supermarket when they’re mature, and bitter, and generally gross. BUT – stick with me, because new spring dandelions are a different beast altogether …

The key to this recipe is to use small spring dandelions rather than mature ones. As far as I’m concerned, eating dandelions is completely seasonal, because while small sprouts are delicious, older ones are gross. What do I mean by early spring dandelions? Well, timing will vary by region, but here in New England it’s right now – mid-April – that dandelions are starting to peek up their nightmarish green shoots, but before they sprout flowers and flower stalks. That’s the key – get them before they start to flower. Once that starts they are much tougher and more bitter.

There are two other bonuses about this dish. One, the greens are free – because everyone has and hates dandelions. Two, you now have incentive to weed dandelions at the hands-down easiest period in their life cycle to get rid of those evil yellow-headed devils.

Since I’m weeding my yard/garden while foraging, I like to use this tool:


Source

This Dutch spiral weeder is the only thing I’ve found that even comes close to pulling out a fair amount of dandelion root. The reason dandelions are so miserable to get rid of is that even the teensiest one has a ridiculous root.  Here’s what my haul looked like so you can see how nuts these roots are and how small the sprouts are:

A word of warning before the recipe – make sure you are foraging from somewhere that hasn’t used pesticides, weed killer, etc. otherwise you’ll be ingesting that grossness. Not good.

Ingredients (per serving):

  • About 3 dry measured non-compressed cleaned dandelion shoots
  • One hard-boiled egg
  • 1 tbs vinegar (your preference, as long as it’s not something sweet like balsamic, you’re fine)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Optional: Bacon bits and grease in place of olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Forage your dandelions! It’s best to either weed them out like I do, pulling as much root as you can for dandelion-elimination purposes, or else for just food-gathering purposes to pinch them off as close to the root as possible so that you have a nice dandelion ball rather than just a bunch of loose leaves.
  2. Clean the dandelions. If you’ve pulled out a lot of root, chop the root at the base of the dandelion ball where the leaves meet and get rid of it. Do this before rinsing or you’ll be rinsing something you’re going to throw away. Rinse thoroughly. These are foraged, so you’ll find this isn’t like rinsing something from the grocery store. You’ll need to wash several times to be sure your food is bug, stick, rock and dirt-free.
  3. Make the vinaigrette by mixing oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. I like a lot of salt on this!
  4. Hard boil your egg and chop it. Personally, I like to serve with the egg still warm, but it’s good cold too.
  5. Mix dandelions, vinaigrette and chopped egg thoroughly and serve!
  6. NOTE: If you’re using bacon and bacon grease rather than oil, cook your bacon as crispy as possible, and first toss the dandelions in the bacon grease and bits then add your vinegar and egg after. I don’t know why this works better but it does.

My grandmother almost always prepared this using bacon and bacon grease, but this is one time that I actually don’t think bacon is at all necessary to make a recipe better. Personally, I prefer the oil to the bacon grease because the grease kind of hardens on cool leaves which is not my favorite consistency.

Enjoy!

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