By Joseph Parish
Before long this cold spell of winter will be departing and the warm air of spring will start to come in. Along with the warmth that the season change will bring we will also see an abundance of lovely little flowers begin to pop up on our lawn and yards. These yellow spots are nothing more then small dandelion plants.
The dandelion is a perennial plant that is generally considered a nuisance and a pest. Many home owners attack the plants with a vengeance spraying plant killer on each and every one they see. These herbaceous plants have long, lance-shaped leaves from which it derives its French name of Dent-de-lion which means lion's tooth. Its leaves are generally about three to twelve inches long and approximately 1/2 to 2-1/2 inches wide.
The plant has multiple uses such as the beautiful yellow flowers make some excellent dandelion wine while you can create some flavorful salads with the greens. The dandelion leaves are usually at their best when you sow them young. Get them as they first emerge. The nice thing about dandelions is that there is no chance what-so-ever of confusing it with another plant. There simply are no poisonous look a like that resemble the dandelion.
Although most of the people generally like to discourage the growth of the dandelion the plants were actually introduced into the Midwest from Europe in order to provide food for cultured honeybees during the early springtime. From this humble start the dandelion has now spread worldwide. As mentioned most gardeners tend to detest these pretty yellow flowers and due to its deep taproot the more they try to weed them out the faster they tend to grow.
If you plan to use dandelions as a food supplement you should collect your dandelion leaves in the early spring months. This is the time of the year when they are the tastiest. Be sure to grab them prior to the flower appearing on the stems. You can harvest your wild crop again in the late fall. To eat these broad leaves you should select only the youngest of the plants and above all avoid those with flowers as these are the bitterest of the bunch. Some true dandelions fans will eat the greens from early spring on up to the late fall months. If all else fails you can always boil the bitterness out of the leaves.
Dandelion greens are traditionally eaten in salads or sautéed or even steamed. They often display a chicory type of taste with a little bit of bitter tinge. Today most people do not care for the bitter taste of the dandelions however in past years the people had developed the ability to distinguish between a good and a bad bitter taste. We are now accustomed to the added sugar and salts in our foods and can not readily do this today.
One simple way to prepare the dandelion is to sauté them for approximately 20 minutes with some onions and a pinch of garlic. Use olive oil and as they cook you may add some wine to the pan just before they are completed their cooking cycle. They can be cooked with some sliced carrots to cut any of the bitterness from the plants.
Most of the plant is useable. You can eat the leaves and the flowers, you can use the flowers to create wine and you can dry the root and grind it to create a coffee like drink. I will cover the coffee drink in another article. As a final added attraction I would like to describe how to make some Cream of Dandelion soup.
4 cups of chopped dandelion greens
2 cups of yellow dandelion petals
2 cups of dandelion buds
1 Tablespoon of butter
1 cup of chopped wild leek
6 cloves of minced garlic
4 cups of water
2 cups of heavy cream
2 teaspoons of salt
To start you will need to gently boil the dandelion leaves in six cups of water. After a while pour off the bitter water and boil a second time. Once again pour off the bitter water.
In a large soup pot sauté the wild leek and the garlic in the butter until it becomes tender. Now add the four cups of water. Next place the dandelion leaves, petals and buds into the mixture. Add salt to your liking and simmer gently for approximately 45 minutes.
Finally add the cream and continue to simmer for a few minutes more. Upon serving you can garnish your soup with some dandelion flower petals. There you have it and I certainly hope that you enjoy this soup.
Copyright @ 2009 Joseph Parish