Updated 2009-06-18 21:32:56 ID=409:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty's Table Talk

One Woman's Weed Is Another's Delicacy --Rethinking Dandelions

I've always been fascinated by the lowly dandelion. It's so hardy and resilient and grows practically anywhere. Its two-faced crown -the yellow flower head which then turns transparent -always amazed me in its transformation process. But it was not until just a couple of years ago, did I appreciate its medicinal and culinary attributes. And like hard times decades ago, people are again discovering its uses in fine dining and low-cost meals alike.

The lowly dandelion -an often unappreciated plant --or more aptly called "weed." It's always been the scourge of manicured lawns. Not anymore. Like our grandparents in the past, people, in these hard times, are discovering that the dandelion greens can be put to work in salads, side dishes and main course pastas for only pennies a serving. And they're healthy too!

©2009 The Romantic Table, Dandelions greens are known for their ability to help digestion, swelling, bloating, viruses, reduce inflammation, acne and eczema 2009-06-18 21:17:52:156
©2009 The Romantic Table

Dandelions greens are known for their ability to help digestion, swelling, bloating, viruses, reduce inflammation, acne and eczema
Here on the Central Coast there are a few "cutting-edge" organic gardeners like greens specialist Ralph Johnson, sell their dandelion greens at the local farmers markets. With easy access to quality well-cared-for dandelion greens, it would be a shame to not be adventurous and try these greens in various salads and pastas. Priced very inexpensively, if you could turn these "weeds" into a good tasting recipe it would be a win-win situation!

The three main types of dandelion greens that are available to us-so far- are the "Smooth Leaf Italian Red", "Rough Leaf Italian Red", and "Catalona" (originally derived from Catalonia.). We especially like the Catalona, but we've used all three and they each have their own merits.

Thought to have evolved thirty million years ago in Eurasia, Arabian physicians in the tenth and eleventh centuries started using the dandelions for medicinal purposes. Dandelions greens are known for their ability to help one's digestion, swelling, bloating, viruses, reduce inflammation, acne and eczema.The dandelion's crown can be used as a laxative and diuretic. And these greens make some of the best tonics to purify your body. -Though I'd rather eat them in a spiced-up dish!

©2009 The Romantic Table, Italian Red Dandelions 2009-06-18 21:22:18:157
©2009 The Romantic Table

Italian Red Dandelions
©2009 The Romantic Table, Italian Smooth dandelion 2009-06-18 21:21:03:158
©2009 The Romantic Table

Italian Smooth dandelion
The use of dandelion greens in cuisine goes back to the thirteen hundreds when the European cooks would use the greens as a sort of endive. And here in America during the Depression, cooks frugal by circumstances turned to dandelion greens for their dinner table, serving them in various ways for side dishes and with pastas as the main dish. I remember my grandmother occasionally gathering wild dandelions greens and preparing then for dinner. I have to admit at the time I was not a great fan --I thought they were better left to my horse to enjoy!

Dandelion greens have a slightly picante-bitter taste, like arugula, kale or spinach --a taste I came to appreciate later in life. Dandelion greens can be used much the same way as you would use those vegetables. But dandelion greens are much MORE nutritious than most other greens with more than four times the amount of Vitamin A, twice the amount of Vitamin K, more than twice the amount of Calcium, and three times the amount of Iron per cup than an equivalent amount of spinach.

©2009 The Romantic Table, Catalona Dandelion 2009-06-18 21:21:57:159
©2009 The Romantic Table

Catalona Dandelion
Now even the "high-brow set" have discovered this lowly weed. It's the new "in-thing" as proclaimed in "The Wall Street Journal" a few weeks ago-it's the "New Weed Cuisine!" Supermarkets sell over two million dollars worth of dandelion greens a year! The East Coast set are using the dandelions greens raw in salads. But I prefer to use them in pastas. They make a great base to add other ingredients to and amalgamate.

I absolutely love our recipe for Dandelion Greens with Toasted Walnuts and Pasta! We have used all three varieties, but we prefer the Catalona variety best for this recipe. Using a little olive oil, white onion, lemon zest, toasted walnuts and of course garlic with some nice wide pasta, dandelions are transformed into a delicious entree that most adults would be astonished by how good a recipe lowly dandelion greens could make! And after digesting the meal, the next day, you'll be surprised by how good your feel!

So the next time you're at one of our farmers markets that sell the dandelion greens, buy a bunch or two and try them out on one of our recipes-or your own. Use these like a lot of our grandparents did in hard times -for their dinner table. Look at our dandelion recipe for tips. I recommend parboiling the greens first fro 2 to 4 minutes to reduce some of the bitterness and soften up the tougher stems. But save a couple uncooked greens to cut up and sprinkle over the top of each portion at serving time to bring back the fresh taste and texture.

Just be adventurous and try some! You'll be glad you did!

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A tip from Sue!

Eating well with no guilt!

For those health-conscious, alternate a "healthy meal" just before and after a "splurge meal." You can enjoy the food much more when you're not plagued by guilt! And this keeps you on a self-imposed "mini-diet" and maintains your weight much better than if you haphazardly eat at random.