Foraged dandelion greens are the first spring vegetable, they come on even earlier than asparagus, and they make a great spring tonic. Cultivated dandelion greens from the store are less bitter than the wild ones, but in both cases nibble on a leaf to ascertain it’s bitterness and gauge how much to include in your dish. Today many markets carry dandelion greens. Better yet, forage them yourself. Foraging enables you to also harvest the dandelion heart or crown a delicacy that you won’t find at the grocery store.
Brush away the protective blanket of last year’s foliage and a layer of soil to expose dandelion crowns. Bypass leaves from plants that have gone to flower because after blossoming the greens becomes quite bitter and would require several blanching baths to be tasty. Do not gather dandelions from public trails, roadsides or any chemically-tainted area including treated lawns. Discard extraneous grasses.
Tips for Preparing Dandelion Greens
The more latex (milky liquid) that exudes from a just cut dandelion the more bitter the vegetable. A tender, young plant has little latex but as it ages it develops more. To remove their bitter flavor, blanch them in boiling water. Wild dandelions are bitter and “milky.” Much of the bitterness has been bread out of commercial dandelions.
Strip the stems from the larger leaves and add to a salad. Or sauté with an onion and garlic and season with a pinch of sea salt and few grinds of fresh pepper. Or use in any cooked dish as you would bok choy or kale.