Category Archives: dandelions

Dandy Muffins and Bread

Before making this recipe, you’ll need to harvest a cup of dandelion petals. This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes with the right flowers and technique. Choose tall, robust dandelions that have been allowed to grow unmolested. Abandoned lots and field margins are good places to look. Generally the presence of dandelions indicates herbicides are not in use, but roadside specimens can contain the residue of other chemicals. Choose your spots wisely. You’ll want to harvest in the morning, before the flowers have fully opened. Grasp the yellow part of the flower (the petals) and twist away from the green sepals and stem. Discard any greenery. I prefer the bread to the muffins.

2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dandelion petals
1/4 cup canola oil
4 tbsp honey
1 egg
scant 1 1/2 cups milk

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl, including petals, and mix. Make sure to separate clumps of petals. In separate bowl mix together milk, honey, oil, and beat in egg. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir. Batter should be fairly wet and lumpy. Pour into buttered bread tin or muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees. A dozen muffins will take 20-25 minutes. Bread will take 25-30 or more minutes. At 25 minutes, check doneness of bread with a toothpick. If still too moist inside, lower oven temperature and continue to bake, checking every five minutes.

This recipe is based on one in Peter Gail’s The Dandelion Celebration; mine doubles the amount of dandelion petals. My first attempt—the muffins—used the recommended 1/2 cup of petals. You can see the color contrast in the two images above, with the bread and its full cup of petals better showing off the dandy essence. I might even add more petals next time. The final product is savory sweet, somewhat like cornbread, with the yellow petals an eye-catching glint of sunlight.

Dandelion Delivery Cookies

Take a great cookie recipe, add dandelion petals—and voila, you’ve got a dandy delivery vehicle. On the over-under I usually go with old standby chocolate chip, but this oatmeal cookie recipe from a woman who goes by Crescent Dragonwagon (good name, huh) is really a thing of transcendental beauty. Piling in a bunch dandelion petals detracts nothing and adds the salubrious goodness of the hated weed. But be warned: it ain’t Easy-Bake OvenTM material.

This is a whopper of a recipe, requiring a coupla giant bowls and mucho measuring; I always halve it.

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 packed cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
3 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1 1/2 cups raisins (optional)
2 cups dandelion petals

1. Cream sugars and butter in large bowl. Beat in egg, one at a time. (If halving recipe, one egg is enough.) When blended, stir in vanilla.

2. Combine oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a second large bowl. Mix in dandelion petals, carefully separating clumps. Stir in nuts (and optional raisins).

3. Stir dry ingredients into wet. If you’re doing the full recipe, your wet bowl better be big.

4. Grease baking sheet. Scoop gobs of desired size onto sheet. You can make uncommonly huge cookies with this recipe. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes (or less for conventionally sized cookies) until light brown. Cookies are best if slightly chewy.

Urban Foraging, Scene 2

Early morning commute, sun just rising over tops of buildings to the east. Cars whiz by on Dearborn; I-5 booms overhead. Our hero scrambles up a grassy hill from street level and steps through a hole in the chain-link fence. The undeveloped lot is bounded by apartment buildings on one side and the highway on the other. Trash is strewn about: a dirty mattress, beer cans, someone’s torn underwear. He starts picking dandelions. These are big ones, unhindered by mowing or herbicides. He takes half-opened blossoms and pinches them at the base, twisting until the petals come free. The petals go into a plastic sack tied around a belt loop on his pants. Our hero sees two men approaching from the street. Uh-oh.

First Man (eyes red, wearing a trenchcoat and hightops): What you up to?

Urban Forager: Um…picking dandelions.

Second Man (ratty black down jacket, carrying a duffel bag): Dandy lions?

Urban Forager: That’s right. To eat.

First Man: Eat? That’s crazy talk.

Second Man: Sheeee.

First Man (burps and stumbles a little bit): Dandy lions, huh.

Urban Forager: They’re really good for you.

Second Man (shakes head sadly): Sheeeeee.

Urban Forager: Seriously.

First Man: Them yeller petals?

Urban Forager: Sure. I’ll bake something with them. Bread. Muffins. Maybe cookies.

First Man: Dandy lion cookies?

Urban Forager: Right. I could also make a dandy wine.

Both Men: Whoa!

First Man: Dandy lion wine, huh.

Urban Forager: That’s right.

Second Man (smiling toothless grin): Sheeeeeeee.

The two men pause to consider the possibilities, look at the dandelions all around them in a new light, then lurch off into the ‘bo jungle.

Newsflash! (this is no April Fool)

Whew…FOTL is catching his breath after doing his first radio interview ever, with Megan Sukys of NPR affiliate KUOW Seattle 94.9 FM. You can tune into the “Sound Focus” segment this Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. The topic: foraging dandelions in your own backyard.

Let me just say hats off to Megan for helping this microphone-shy forager through the process. I have a new respect for the hard work broadcasters do every day as a matter of course. Megan was always ready with a question when I ran out of steam to keep the ball rolling, and her enthusiasm was boundless.

Needless to say, I don’t know how the finished interview will shape up, but I can tell you we picked some dandelion buds in the yard and made an omelet in the kitchen. Megan also got to sample my Dandy Bread and Dandy Cookies, and I sent her off with a stash of each for her family and colleagues.

Don’t forget to tune in this Friday. I’ll post a link after it airs.

Pass the Dandies

Here’s a thought experiment: Your buddies blindfold you and take you to the local, where you have your usual draft. Someone orders up a plate of Fried Dandies. Hmm…that sounds good, if unfamiliar and maybe a little twee. You munch one down and grab another. Then another. The taste is hard to place. The Fried Dandies are light and crunchy on the outside and a little bit squishy on the inside, but not like seafood. They’re fresh and bright. They’re addictive. You remove the blindfold. Fried dandelion blossoms? Are you kidding? ‘Fraid not, son. Now have another. It’s good for you!

Fried Dandies*

36-48 large** dandelion blossoms
1 cup flour
1 cup ice water
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

Remove as much of the dandelion stem and greenery as possible without damaging the blossom itself. Heat oil in a skillet on medium high. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Add ice water and stir. Blend in egg. Use tongs to submerge dandelion blossoms in batter and drop in hot oil. Fry in shifts. Serve with beer.

* adapted from Peter Gail’s Dandelion Celebration.

** The biggest and best dandelions can be found in abandoned lots and field margins—places that see neither mowing nor herbicides. When allowed to grow freely, dandelions can reach impressive size, with blossoms a few inches across.

Dandelicious Omelet

I’ve been talking up superfoods all month. For most of us in temperate regions, our bodies are transitioning from the rigors of winter into the working season (even if we’re working indoors at desks now). Wild greens—many known as “weeds” by the establishment such as stinging nettles and dandelions—aid that transition. They’re high in vitamins and minerals; they have lots of fiber and protein. Folks of yore knew all about them. They made teas and tonics of the superfoods and ate them like vegetables.

Besides the obvious health benefits, there are more modern reasons to harvest wild superfoods. Take a look at my lawn from the street and it looks okay. Not great, but not overrun by so-called weeds. Look a little closer and you’ll see plenty of robust green weed clusters competing with the frail grass, dandelions especially. Only these dandelions don’t have the hydra-like yellow manes to give them away and irritate the neighbors. Where did all the flowers go?

Into my belly, is where. Just a few minutes of snip-snip-snipping out in the front yard and I had enough for an omelet (i.e. a half cup of buds for a small 2-egg omelet). I targeted all the buds that were partially open, with flower stalks exposed halfway down the buds. You can use closed buds as well, but I figured I’d get the first round of ready-to-bloom dandies and then harvest another batch in a few days. Clip off the stem, saute in butter a few minutes (until they fully open) and pour in the eggs. As easy as that.

The taste of a fried dandelion bud is hard to explain. It’s certainly not your usual domesticated fare—it’s savory with a touch of bite, though not bitter, and earthy like wild mushrooms. In an omelet, it’s dandelicious. Said Marty: “What’s that flavor? It’s like a burst of spring, almost citrusy. Like nibbling on a little bit of sunshine.”

Just one more reason to let your lawn do its own thing.

Dandy Time

It’s high time for dandelions in Seattle right now and presumably elsewhere. Northern regions of the interior still locked in snow will have to wait another month. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not a big fan of the prissy American lawn, that one-note symphony of righteousness that seems to suggest moral rectitude on the part of the homeowner willing to commit himself to a never-ending battle with weeds. This position becomes even more indefensible when one stops to consider the nutritional and culinary value of the enemy.

So, for the neighbors’ benefit, I’ve been doing my part to rid the lawn of weeds. By eating them.

In a quest for superfoods to kick and roll out of winter, FOTL has been enjoying dandy salads for the past month, and sharing the bounty with other…shall we say more skeptical eaters. But in the last week we’ve had a massive dandelion blossoming across the city, meaning it’s now time to change tactics. The leaves of dandelions are delicious while still young and tender. Raw, they have a bite not unlike socially acceptable salad greens such as escarole or chicory. They can also be steamed as a side vegetable, or cooked with a chunk of saltpork like collards.

Once the buds form, though, the leaves start to become bitter. This is when I turn to my trusty copy of The Dandelion Celebration by Dr. Peter Gail, director of the Goosefoot Acres Center for Wild Vegetable Research and Education. Dr. Gail includes recipes for the whole kit-and-caboodle: In addition to 40 pages devoted to just the leafy greens we also get 30-plus that make use of closed buds, opened buds, full flowers, and those amazing (dastardly to lawncare professionals) taproots.

A few examples of recipes using the buds and flowers: Dandelion Flower Muffins, Dandelion Fritters, numerous variations on Dandelion Wine, and the Dandy Omelet. Using roots: Dandelion Coffee and even Dandelion Root Ice Cream (a recipe originally submitted by our own local Herbfarm Restaurant).

In the past I’ve stuck with the tried and true raw greens. This year we’re going deep into the catalog. Expect future reports on the buds (apparently they pop open when fried) and maybe even the roots, although FOTL isn’t quite prepared to give up his dark roast morning java, even if it’s decaf.

Superfood #3

Is there anything more pedestrian in suburban America than the carefully manicured front lawn? As a place to play catch and kick a soccer ball, I’ll let you have your backyard turf. But that front lawn of tidy green grass running from door to sidewalk? That monochromatic parcel of mindless geometry? It needs to go.

My neighbors are forever grappling with the weeds that so easily out-wit them. They pull and mow and dump gallons of fertilizers and herbicides, never mind the ever-dwindling salmon that drink in the polluted run-off. Meanwhile we’ve let our own lawn go to hell, earning the hairy eyeball as property values around us take the hit. One day I’ll rip out the lawn altogether and replace its humdrum bed of grass with a more visually stimulating rock garden of some sort, with native plants that don’t require constant coddling. In the interim I’ll make use of the lawn’s best feature.

The dandelions.

For millennia the dandelion was revered for its medicinal qualities. Consumptives ate its roots in winter and its tender leaves in spring and were restored to health. Now we have vitamin supplements and the once mighty dandelion has been consigned to a long list of pests to be stamped out.

It’s too bad, because people are missing the boat. The vitamin game is no way to stay healthy. Study after study shows that vitamins absorbed through food are far more salubrious than any supplement. I’ve already posted about two “superfoods”—the stinging nettle and watercress. Now add the lowly dandelion to the list. Turns out it’s bursting with vitamins and trace minerals, in part because of those exasperating taproots that can reach two feet or more down into the soil. According to Dr. Peter Gail, president of Defenders of Dandelions, these common weeds “contain more beta-carotene than carrots, more potassium than bananas, more lecithin than soybeans, more iron than spinach, and loads of Vitamins A, C, E, thiamin and riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.”

I guess one of these afternoons when the sun is out I’ll resuscitate our ancient lawn mower and make my neighbors happy. But first I’ve got some dandelions to harvest.