I have been interested in foraging and wild foods for a long time. Several times I have attempted to cook and eat dandelion greens. Somehow, there is something enticing about the idea of foraging for food, something you did not have to plant and cultivate, and having a tasty dish for your trouble.
There is a reason Granny (remember the Beverly Hillbillies on TV?) served greens with possum gravy and pot likker. They taste pretty terrible on their own. Which is why I kept trying them but never actually got around to eating them.
According to some of the books and web sites I have read recently part of the trick is boiling. And boiling. And more boiling. It apparently helps to remove, or at least tame, some of the bitterness.
I happened to have cooked some bacon that morning and had not yet washed out the pan. I figured what better way to cook dandelions than in bacon grease, my Greek cookbook notwithstanding. I headed out to the back yard in the cool misty drizzle (not really rain) and pulled a hefty handful of dandelion greens and a few sprigs of garlic mustard (there was not much that I could reach).
I doused the greens in a pot of water and swished them around, let them stand, then lifted them from the water to allow any grit to settle to the bottom. Drained and rinsed the pan and repeated a couple times to make sure the greens were clean, then I chopped them coarsely (another tip to help with bitterness). I added a fat pinch of salt, brought them to a boil and let them simmer about ten minutes. I tasted and they seemed okay - not overly bitter. Next time I will likely drain and boil them at least two or three times - the finished greens were decidedly bitter.
After boiling I drained them and tossed them into the skillet that contained the bacon grease (and luckily a few specks of bacon which had stuck to the pan). I turned up the heat and let them go a good long time - maybe 20 minutes or so - stirring occasionally and seasoning them with a little more salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes as well as a dribble of olive oil. I would have added a splash of vinegar if I had thought of it.
They were bitter. But not un-eatable. Tender but still toothsome. If I try them again I'll let you know. For now I'll stick with kale and Swiss chard, challenging in their own way but a little easier to relate to.
Quotable quotes; in the category Nuts About Nuts Or Just Nuts?
"I look for natural ingredients in my food. That's why Grape Nuts is part of my breakfast . . . Its naturally sweet taste reminds me of wild hickory nuts."
Euell Gibbons, American Food & Nature Writer, from his Post Grape Nuts commercial