Nothing is more satisfying than foraging food from the backyard. This spring I have been eating dandelion greens at least twice a day, sauteed in olive oil and garlic. They are high in trace minerals, calcium, and iron, and vitamins A, C, and B6 – a very nutritious early spring addition to any meal. Best of all, they are free! Be sure to only collect from clean lawns and gardens that have not been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.
Sure, us weed-eating folks do get quizzical looks when munching on things in the lawn. While we won’t likely convince everyone to chow down on bitter dandelion greens, we might be able to prove their worth with this simple recipe utilizing the flower buds. Next time you reach for capers in a recipe, try dandelion capers instead! They add pizazz to salads and pasta dishes, and they are extremely easy to make.
Before the dandelion flowers open in spring, collect a handful or so of small buds (they should be bright green and almost spherical). I pick a few of the buds from lots of different plants around the garden because dandelions are one of the earliest available flowers for bees and nectar-loving insects. Please don’t mow, don’t spray, and don’t dig.
Once you have collected a few, place them in a small jar and cover with vinegar (I use raw apple cider vinegar because after I eat the capers I use the leftover vinegar on salads). Some online recipes suggest using dilute vinegar, but I use it straight up because dandelions are full of water which naturally dilutes the vinegar a little. Add salt as desired – capers are traditionally salty so don’t be shy with the salt. Cover and shake gently until the salt dissolves. Let set about a week before tasting them; adjust the salt as needed. They will last for several months in the refrigerator, except that I eat mine long before they ever get a chance to spoil.
Try some tasty variations on this simple recipe. Add garlic, peppercorns, coriander seeds, dill, oregano, rosemary – you get the picture. Also try different types of vinegar, like red wine, white balsamic, or homemade.
Back to the dandelion greens… As soon as the snow melts and the dandelion leaves start to grow, pluck individual leaves from all around. This is my preferred method of harvesting. Growing up, we would take a knife and cut the entire rosette of greens. Over the years I have learned that this only ensures a sink full of soil, leaf litter, and burrowing insects. Now, I just pluck leaves for a cleaner harvest requiring only a few quick rinses before eating.
Dandelions: nutritious, delicious, and wild! Happy harvesting!
Dr. Nate Petley is a naturopathic doctor and clinical herbalist. He offers a three-year herb apprenticeship in Maine and lectures throughout New England sharing his expertise in naturopathic and botanical medicine. Dr. Petley blends the art and science of herbalism in his clinic and classroom, relying on his 20 years of experience studying, wildcrafting, and making herbal medicine.
Dr. Nate Petley | www.drpetley.com | 2017. All rights reserved. All text and photos are the property of Nathaniel Petley, ND.