Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stalking the Wild Dandelion

That I love the outdoors and all that it provides us is no secret.  I recently however was awoken to the bounty that lies in obscurity all around us.  A family friend had given us some used books a while back and one was picked out by my wife as of interest to me.  I didn't have time to look at it then but a recent book shelf shuffle brought it to the fore again and I took it up to read as March was thoroughly dragging me out waiting for the weather to cooperate with my plans for the outdoors.

The book is Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Field Guide Edition, by Euell Gibbons.  What a treasure.  The book covers a variety of plant life common to North America that is seldom regarded as anything other than a weed but is none-the-less edible in part or whole in it's proper season with proper preparation.

As the title of this post may intimate, this is the season for baby dandelion greens and root crowns and roots.  While recently incapacitated for a period of two weeks due to some strenuous over exertion on my part, and having had the first good nights sleep in some time owing to diminished pain, I was keen to get a little exercise this afternoon.  So I set out with the small garden spade and dug about 10 small dandelions, picked off the wet clay and headed inside to clean and prepare them.

After washing, I separated the reddish green leaves from the root crown and the root crown from the root and washed all three carefully.  This gave me a bowl of salad greens with root crowns and a small pile of broken roots.

The salad was excellent.  Baby dandelion greens are mild in flavor and nutritious.  I felt well indeed some time after ingesting this splendid lawn born delight.  The roots required a bit more preparation so I set them in a foil tray in the oven set to about 300F for about 2 and a half hours.  What I was looking for, per Euell's guidance, was for them to snap and be just brown through.  I tested them twice and found them satisfactorily snappy the second time.  Then I ground them and made a tea bag from them with a coffee filter and a twist-tie.

Mr. Gibbon recommended this as a coffee substitute but it is far different from any but the highest quality coffee I have ever sampled.  It has a slightly sharp but overwhelmingly smooth with a nutty flavor which imparts a gently tingle to your tongue.  The aroma is very pleasant and inviting and quite unlike anything I've had before.  The after taste is clean and comforting.  Really this is something I had never considered trying but quite like.  The preparation is a bit high in labor but no less than what a coffee bean endures on its way to my cup.  If ever I find coffee to be unobtainable, or tea for that matter, this is a fine substitute.

I'm delighted to note that a number of the plants listed in the book are ones I am already familiar with as interesting weeds and nothing more.  I'm looking forward to sampling them as food this year and the added bounty it will bring to our table!