There is nothing quite like the first signs of spring. It is still relatively cold up here in the Catskills but the first signs of spring are all around. The woods are colored with vibrant green patches of ramp and the edges of nearby streams are dotted with clusters of wild watercress. In my own yard and bleak garden beds are a few renegade early dandelions. The name dandelion comes from the French word Dent de Lion, meaning lion's tooth. It is named so for it's jagged sharp tooth like points on its leaves. I decided to cook the dandelions I needed to pull from the garden beds and to roast the roots for a coffee substitute. The best time for dandelion greens, which are rich in vitamin A and C and Calcium, is when they are quite small early in the season before they produce flower buds. Later in the season they become too bitter. The early settlers used dandelion as a spring tonic to get a boost of the vitamins they lacked over the long cold winters.
My grandmother used to talk about eating wild greens both dandelion and chicory which grew wild in the hills of Puglia. I am not sure she really got her fill living in Long Island City. When she moved to Vermont in the mid 60's she was able to get clean pesticide free wild greens from the local farmers.
The whole plant is edible from the leaves to the flower to the roots. I sautéed the greens and made some dandelion toasts as well as a dandelion frittata. I then roasted the roots on a baking sheet until they were brittle and made quite a delicious coffee like substitute. In fact, I could grow to like the roasted dandelion roots very much.
You don't need a yard to get your dandelion on; they are available in the spring at most farmers markets. I saw they were starting to turn up the past few weeks at the Union Square Greenmarket. Prepare them anyway you would sautéed greens or make a pesto or a soup. The possibilities are endless. How will you get your spring tonic on?
I will post recipies in the next few days..but really this is meant to inspire whatever dandelion recipe you can conjure up!