We’ve tried a lot of things with dandelions. The leaves are great. Hopefully everybody knows that by now. I’ve made syrups with the flowers, but truthfully they don’t have much flavour and are only good for their sunny colour. The roots are delicious roasted and useful in bitter infusions, but they are such a bitch to harvest I rarely bother. The flower buds can be pickled, but while they look a good deal like capers they don’t actually have much flavour of their own, and certainly don’t have the distinct mustard-like pop of their Mediterranean look-alikes.
Dandelion crowns might be the tastiest part of the plant.
The crown is where the root transitions to the stalks. It is only slightly easier to harvest than the root, and probably more difficult to clean, but it delivers a serious flavour payoff.
Pan-roasted, dandelion crowns remind me of rutabaga: soft, savoury, and faintly bitter.
The dish below was entirely conceived and executed by my partner Lisa. She sautéed the crowns, then added a bit of water to the pan and covered. Once the crowns were tender she added dandelion greens and cooked until they were wilted but still vibrant green. She finished the dish with balsamic vinegar.
At left is the first harvest from the yard, largely rhubarb and dandelions.
Describing dandelions as “edible” is misleading. The term suggests that they should only be eaten in survival situations. (Would you ever describe spinach, or cheese, or pork, as merely “edible”?)
In reality, dandelions are a treasured leafy green in several European cuisines. They even have an entry in Larousse. Some excerpts from that article:
- “the English name is derived from the alternative French name dent-de-lion (literally ‘lion’s tooth’, referring to its serrated leaves)”
- “Wild dandelion leaves should be picked before the plant has flowered…, when they are small and sweet.” This line confuses me a bit. While our dandelion leaves are definitely better when small and tender, I find that they still have a pronounced (but pleasing) bitterness. I have never tasted a dandelion leaf I would describe as sweet. Perhaps we have a different variety than the Europeans?
- “In salads, dandelions are traditionally accompanied by diced bacon and garlic-flavoured croutons…, hard-boiled eggs or walnuts.”
I love dandelions because they are one of the first weeds to pop up after the snow melts. The bacon-dandelion salad mentioned in Larousse has become a cherished springtime lunch in my kitchen.
You can also give the roots and flowers a go. The roots have the same bitterness as the leaves, obviously with an added crunch. The flowers are very fun to eat. They have a slight sweetness.
Instead of the classic hard-boiled egg I like to use a soft-poached egg. When broken, the fatty yolk runs through the leaves and tempers their bitterness. The dressing is usually made with cider vinegar, a touch of mustard, a touch of bacon fat, and canola oil.
This salad goes well with Weissbier.