Category Archives: superfoods

Dandy Burger

It’s game time. My boy is scheduled to take the mound today. I deliver the pep talk and then hand him a shot of nourishment. A sports drink? An energy bar? Nah. I hand him a hot Dandy Burger.

Yes, I’ve gone off the deep end. Just when you thought I was done with $&@%# dandelions…

What can I say? I had a fresh crop on the lawn.

This recipe comes from a member of the Forage Ahead Yahoo group. I adapted it slightly, adding more flour and onion plus an egg.

1 cup packed dandelion petals (no greens)
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp each basil and oregano
1/8 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients together. The batter will be wet and goopy. Form into patties and pan fry in oil or butter, turning until crisp on both sides. Makes 4-5 very nutritious veggie burgers.

The Mariners bullpen could use a few of these.

Welcome KUOW Listeners!

Here’s an archived link to the show >>

Today at 2:08 p.m. FOTL will be on KUOW 94.9 FM Seattle, talking with “Sound Focus” host Megan Sukys about a delicious and healthy plant you can harvest right out of your own backyard: dandelions. This is a radio debut, so no promises from this not-ready-for-prime-time player… but it should open your eyes (or ears, rather) to alternative ways of dealing with a so-called weed. You can listen online.

We’ve been chatting up dandelions quite a bit around here in recent weeks. You can read about the health benefits of dandelions here and my quest to find other “superfoods” here, or check out the following recipes:

* Dandelicious Omelet
* Dandy Bread and Muffins
* Dandelion Delivery Cookies
* Fried Dandies

Now is a dandy time to get out there—to abandoned lots, unmown fields, farm margins, even your own backyard or parking strip—and harvest a weed that we spend zillions trying to eradicate and yet is more nutritious than any domestic vegetable.

FYI for new visitors, other topics covered by FOTL since its January ’08 inception include:

* truffle hunting
* oyster po ‘boys
* morel mania
* putting the porcini in Cream of Chanterelle Soup
* harvesting stinging nettles
* digging razor clams
* marinating frozen salmon

(Image by auer1816.)

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.

Stinging Nettle Lasagna with Dandelion Salad

“Wake up, it’s spring!” sing the critters in my daughter’s favorite book of the moment. Indeed. It’s about time for a shot of vernal equinox. For those of us who need an extra boost, try mainlining a dose of spring with Stinging Nettle Lasagna, the perfect way to ring in the season. Nettles have been used for millennia to transition the body from the rigors of a long winter. Their taste is wild and woolly—far less housebroken than spinach. And nutritionally, they make spinach look like junk food.

Coupled with a Dandelion Salad, you can’t do yourself better.

For the lasagna, first make the sauce and let it simmer while you’re tending to the other ingredients. All you need is a simple red sauce:

2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Several cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
oregano and/or basil to taste
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Saute onions and garlic until soft. Pour in diced tomatoes and simmer, adding water occasionally to cook down tomatoes. Cook at least 30 minutes (the longer, the better) before adding tomato paste, herbs, and sugar. This will make more than enough sauce for a large lasagna.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the pasta and filling:

12 lasagna noodles
1 32 oz tub of ricotta cheese
1 16 oz ball of mozzarella, grated
Large bunch of stinging nettles, washed and chopped (4-6 cups cooked)

Boil a large pot of water for nettles and lasagna. Blanch stinging nettles 1 minute, remove to salad spinner to drain excess water, and chop. In large bowl mix together nettles and ricotta cheese. Cook pasta in same boiling water, now green with all sorts of good vitamins and nutrients, until al dente. Layer 13 x 9 inch baking dish with enough sauce to cover bottom. Arrange 3-4 lasagna noodles. Cover with 1/2 nettle-ricotta mixture. Spoon over sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 mozzarella. Repeat: noodles, remaining nettle-ricotta mixture, sauce, and 1/3 mozzarella. Add one more layer of noodles followed by remaining sauce and final 1/3 mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes.

For the Dandelion Salad, go snip some dandelion leaves in your yard or a nearby park. Make sure you select only those tender young dandelions that haven’t bloomed yet. Mix the leaves with lettuce or other spring greens.

Voila: A shot of vernal equinox. Happy spring everyone!