Dandelion greens are a common food in Italy and France, and we can find them in our local grocery stores alongside the other leafy greens like kale and mustards. There is always a bit of bitterness associated with dandelion greens, but that level of bitterness can vary with climate, time of year, and habitat of the plant. Robert gathers the greens only in the early spring before the dandelions flower, or in the late fall. He gets them from a meadow next to a seasonally flooding river that receives full sun, and quickly boils them to wilt the greens and store them in the freezer for later use, adds them raw to salads, and cooks them in recipes calling for greens. As he will pick about 5 gallons of greens at a time and boil them in a big pot of water, he is then left with a big pot of dandelion tea filled with vitamins, minerals and iron, that he sweetens and chills to drink. When the flowers appear, we pick them in abundance to use the yellow petals in jelly, wine, and added to breads and muffins. Gillian will powder her face with pollen as she munches the flower heads fresh from the field. Robert digs the roots in the autumn to dry slowly in the oven and powder in the coffee grinder, then uses the powder as a coffee substitute. The smell of the roasting roots is similar to chocolate, and the "coffee" is bitter, but really good dressed up with sweetener and cream. Dandelions are versatile, common, and one of our favorite free, organic, and wild foods.
In two weeks, we are taking a little road trip to the Dandelion Festival in Ohio. We are looking forward to sampling some dandelion-filled foods, some music, crafts, and fun for kids. We ordered the cookbook that Breitenbach Wine Cellars produces in collaboration with the Festival, and it is filled with fun recipes using the greens, flowers and roots.