One of my favorite memories from when I was little, was adventuring around in my back yard with my favorite cat during the summer. Those lazy days were spent picking rhubarb from our neighbors garden, climbing the big willow tree, and my most vivid memory, waking up to a yard full of yellow dandelion flowers. They were so beautiful, and a few days later we were in wish heaven, blowing wishes all afternoon long with the magical little white puffballs. Little did we know, that we were propagating the next crop of dandelions.
My Nonna would come over often, and I would watch her with confusion at first, as she uprooted every dandelion plant with a sharp kitchen knife. And, I will never forget the excitement she had with harvesting her huge crop. At that point, I understood what her intentions were, DINNER! I remember her taking them inside, cleaning them, and later boiling the bitter herbs to serve to the family. I don't think I ever tasted them back then, and if I did, I know I would have hated the taste.
The nutritional value of dandelion, or "cicoria" as she called it, is outstanding. And it's no wonder that my Nonna lived to be a few months shy of 100 years. She had an incredible, innate health sense. Here are some USRDA facts for raw dandelion: 112% Vitamin A, 32% Vitamin C, 10% Calcium, 9% Iron, and 535% Vitamin K, with only 25 calories per serving. I prefer my dandelion cooked, and the Food Network has quite a few interesting recipes such as Dandelion Green Gumbo, Garlic-Braised Dandelion Greens with White Bean Puree and Crispy Pancetta, and Warm Artichokes and Bacon over Dandelion Greens.
DAndelion Greens and Andouille
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray and the Food Network
- 1 pound dandelion greens
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 to 1 pound andouille sausage, chopped or crumbled, parcooked or fresh
- 1 medium onion
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons cider or wine vinegar
- Sprinkle sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Nutmeg, freshly grated
Heat a pan with a few inches water over medium heat. Bring to a boil, season with salt, to taste, and add the bitter greens. Cook for a few minutes, then drain and reserve.
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add the andouille. Brown the crumbles or the chopped cooked sausage, then add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and add the bitter greens. Heat through for a few minutes, then douse with vinegar, and season with sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Traditional Medicinals makes a line of herbal teas, and one of my favorites is PMS Tea. I have been drinking this periodically for about 15 years, and it's only ingredient is dandelion root. When all else fails, PMS Tea is a blessing! The taste is not really that terrific, but it works!
Native American groups, Chinese and Arabian cultures, the Welsh and other Europeans have used Dandelion for medicinal and health reasons for centuries. Our culture even has recipes for dandelion wine, made with the flowers. The name is derived from the French Dent-de-Leon or from the Latin words dens leonis, which both mean Lion's tooth or teeth, referring to the sharp looking little petals. Any which way you look at it, a dandelion still makes me happy. : )