We’re still on our trip through the alphabet with vegetables and now that we’re at “D”, I could only find “dandelion greens” and “daikon radish.” I’m sure there must be more “D’s” but since any more must be very limited in availability I decided to stick with the only one I have any experience with and that’s dandelion greens.
Dandelions are the scourge of lawn purists, yellow heads bobbing up among blades of grass, spreading leaves smothering new growth, seeds hiding in gardens waiting for spring’s warmth to pop up unbidden and nearly un-pullable. Yes, I know the flowers are pretty and I enjoyed blowing the white seed heads just like any other child does. Each one of those spent dandelion flowers probably has hundreds of seeds ready to land somewhere and start growing anew. The taproot grows deeply and stubbornly and once established , the weed (definition of a weed: any plant growing where it oughtn’t ) holds on for dear life to the soil around it. This is why homeowner’s and lawn managers resort to chemicals to prevent or stop the growth of the little devils.
By the way, what is the origin of the name “dandelion?” It comes from the French words “dent de lion” or “lion’s tooth,” so called for the deeply lobed shape of the leaves.
What about the culinary uses? I’ve heard of dandelion wine but never tasted it. I understand dandelions are used raw in salads, young leaves and flower buds, but I’ve never tasted that either. That leaves me to discuss dandelion greens.
I love cooked greens, collards, kale, mustard, chard. Definitely a comfort food, dandelion greens are required in some homes for a New Year’s Day traditional meal. We often have it then, with pork and cornbread. Here is how I fix a “mess of greens.”
Greens – serves 8
4-5 pounds greens, all one kind or a mixture
a couple of ham hocks
1-2 onions, chopped coarsely
2 quarts water, or more
1-2 t. salt
Hot sauce, optional
Remove the tough stems and ribs from the greens. Wash the greens in cold water, three times, or until water is totally clear of sand and mud.
Chop the leaves in roughly 1/2″ pieces.
Put water, ham, and onion in a large stockpot. Bring it to a boil.
Add the greens a large handful at a time, stirring after each addition. Return pot to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer the greens for an hour or two. Remove the ham hocks and cut off any meat if you want to add it to the greens.
Serve with the pot “likker” and hot sauce, if desired. Soak it up with cornbread.
Although it’s more of a cold weather dish for me, it’s great any time of the year.