How I Don’t Eat Dandelions
I’ve been meaning to participate in Butter‘s Wild Things Roundup ever since I discovered her blog last fall, but the themes have never quite coincided with my cooking. Until now! This month’s theme is dandelions.
My big dandelion experiment for this year is the mead. But in honor of the roundup I thought I’d do a worth it / not worth it rundown of past results. The whole dandelion is edible and I’ve tried everything but the seeds. The emerging theme is that dandelions are great as part of a larger whole, but I’m not so into them as a stand-alone dish.
I am picky about my dandelion greens and only eat the youngest, most tender babies. If they’ve sprouted underneath a carelessly overturned bucket and have grown without seeing much of the sun that’s even better – the cosseted veal of dandelions!
Even when I find a bunch of dandelion veal, though, I prefer it mixed with other greens, in a salad or a braising mix.
If you’re not a morning person, dandelion petals are kind of a hassle. If you’re up before the flowers have fully opened you can pretty much just grab the tip of the flower and twist, but if you wait until midday, it takes 2-3 careful pinches per blossom to get it all. And the petals are not strongly flavored, so you have to gather a lot.
I am not a morning person.
I made an irish soda bread once using more or less the ratio of petals:flour in Langdon Cook’s dandy bread, and it was a perfectly fine bread, but if you didn’t see the yellow bits you would never know it had dandelions in it. Verdict: Not worth it.
Then of course there’s this year’s dandelion mead, currently blurping away in its primary fermenter. It took me a couple of hours to pick the requisite 2 quarts of petals (actually not that far off from Langdon’s guideline of 15 minutes for a cup) and I worry that the dandelion flavor will be overwhelmed by the honey. Hours spent in the sun on the first warm day of spring are never wasted, but I’m not sure if I’ll feel a compulsion to repeat the experiment next year when I won’t even have the final results from this batch yet.
I know some people like to make tempura or fritters from these, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s a famine food. They might be abundant and easy to harvest, but they’re also bitter and yucky.
Here’s a foraging pro tip: If you read that something used to be considered a coffee substitute, that’s a euphemism for “it’s too bitter to drink unless you have used mind-altering substances to fuck up your brain’s taste/reward associations and you’re crazy from caffeine withdrawal”.
But after giving up on dandelion root infusions as a stand-alone drink, I soaked some of the leftovers in vodka and made myself some cocktail bitters with it. Which have been great! So dandelion roots are entering my lexicon as a minor balancing component to other flavors.