Watch out, spinach and kale! There’s a new leafy green vegetable making its way to the kitchen, though it might be better known as a weed than a wellness boost. Chowing down on dandelions might seem unconventional, but everything from the leaves to the roots can be eaten. They’re also brimming with a laundry list of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. (Here are the other superfoods that should be on your grocery list.)
Quick history: Dandelions were so cherished among Europeans that, when they arrived in the Americas four hundred years ago, they brought dandelion seeds to plant. Their flavor, versatility and health benefits should usher in a new appreciation of greens!
Here’s what you should know about cooking with dandelions:
Don’t Forage Freely
Given the plethora of dandelions in the wild, it might make more sense to harvest your own instead of paying for greens at the store. However, make sure you’re plucking up plants where you know there hasn’t been any herbicide or pesticide use. It’s best to stay away from places like freeways, train tracks or telephone poles, and be sure to consult local rules about removing flora.
Spread Your Roots
The dandelion roots can be peeled and boiled on the stove and then eaten whole, or chopped up and roasted to be made into tea. The flavor is similar to coffee, though less acidic, and can be paired with a bit of milk, sweetener or lemon juice.
You Better Be-Leaf It
Dandelion leaves have a unique flavor, both earthy and bitter—it’s similar to endive or radicchio. The earlier you pick them, the less bitter they will be, which is why many people in Italy pick ones that emerge in early spring to either use raw in salads like this or sauté them. Keep the sauté simple with just olive oil and salt and pepper, or add red pepper flakes, garlic or even Parmesan cheese to liven up the dish. Big into brunching? This satisfying dandelion greens quiche will have everyone toasting you with their mimosas! You can also grind up the leaves to make dandelion pesto, perfect for a light summer pasta.
Use the Flower Power
Novelist Ray Bradbury loved dandelion wine so much, he named an entire book after it. The wine—yes, it’s a real wine—remains a popular summer drink. It’s one of many creations that can be made with dandelion flowers, which are faintly sweet. They can also be used for syrup, jam or sweet, gift-worthy jelly. You might also batter the blossoms and fry them in butter. The result will be similar to a fried zucchini blossom, and they can be sweetened with honey and cinnamon or spiced with rosemary and thyme.
Be sure to only harvest as many blossoms as you need at once—they must be cooked immediately and should not be stored in the fridge. If you’re not 100% convinced that dandelion can be delicious, you should definitely know how to cook kale.