Grandma’s Dandelion Greens. Take Two. The Bitter Truth

Foraging for Dandelions

Dandelions, photo by Jayaprakash R

I remember the delightful taste of my Grandmother Vera’s sweet and sour dandelion greens. She would dig them from her lawn, chop off the root, wash them off and cook them in some bacon grease with sugar and vinegar. BACON! Wouldn’t Grandma love the fact that bacon has become the trendy food of the decade?

Since we don’t have dandelion-studded lawns in Tucson, I had been deprived of this treat for a very long time.  So when I found some dandelion greens on sale at the grocery store a year or so ago, I pounced.  I cooked them the way I thought Grandma cooked them. I even wrote about it and shared a recipe here.  But the truth is they were BITTER.

Why did I share the recipe? I was hoping that you might have fresher, younger leaves and it might work out better. I’ve learned that is not necessarily true. It is true, however, that good greens must be picked before they flower. As pretty as those dandelions are in the picture–you don’t want those flowers if you’re cultivating a green lawn OR if you are planning to cook the greens.

Dandelion Greens

A bunch of Dandelion Greens from the Farmer’s Market

I’m not giving up.  Last week at the farmer’s market, I found some more dandelion greens on offer. I knew they were organic–never touched by icky chemical sprays–and they looked fresh and green.  So I went in search of a way to cook them that would taste like grandma’s.

Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Cookbook & Field Guide, has a sensible recipe for parboiling the greens and then eating them with butter, pretty much the way you cook most greens.  But where’s the Bacon? Parboiling takes  away the bitterness, although it probably loses some of the great nutrients found in dandelion greens. You can get the lowdown on all the good things in dandelions here.

So then I checked on line and found some recipes for wilted dandelion greens with bacon  that sounded a lot more like Grandma’s. They did not parboil the greens first, which worried me, because I didn’t want that bitterness that I experienced the first time I tried to cook them. So I decided to combine the two techniques.

Remember that a large bunch of greens is going to cook way down.  From this to this:

Dandelion Greens after cooking

Dandelion Greens after cooking

Dandelion Greens

Dandelion Greens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a great explanation of the taste of bitterness, how we experience it, and how some people experience it differently.

I found several recipes on line, and combined ideas, but the closest to Grandma’s, I think, was at Prevention.com [unfortunately they have apparently removed the recipe]. I adapted it and here’s the result.

Dandelion Greens, Take II

Serves 2
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Allergy Egg
Meal type Side Dish
Misc Serve Cold

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Dandelion Greens (Organic)
  • 3-5 pieces Bacon
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • dash black pepper
  • 1 egg (hard boiled)

Directions

1. Wash greens in large bowl of water and pick out grass stems, buds, thick stems, other debris. Drain in strainer. Wash again. Drain. Wash again. Drain. Wash again. Drain
2. Fry bacon strips to crisp, drain on paper towel. Pour off all but about 3 T bacon grease in pan.
3. Put greens in large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Let boil 3-5 minutes. Drain.
4. Bring fresh water to boil in same pot and drop in greens. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain thoroughly on towel or in salad spinner.
5. Put flour, sugar, mustard and pepper in small dish and mix.
6. Stir dry ingredients into hot bacon grease until smooth.
7. Add water and vinegar and continue to stir to keep smooth.
8. Put greens in serving dish and pour sauce over them.
9. Garnish with pieces of crisp bacon and chopped or sliced hard cooked egg.
10. Good cold the next day, too.

Note

Unfortunately, we can't generally just go out and pick dandelions along the road or even in our front lawn any more for fear of chemical sprays. Be sure you are getting organic dandelion greens.

I'm not kidding about repeated washings and picking over of the greens. After washing three times and boiling twice I STILL found grass blades and a dandelion bud. Don't rush the process.

Don't worry if you taste a leaf after boiling and it still tastes bitter. The sauce is going to cure that. PLUS I discovered that more of the bitterness dissipated after leaving the leftovers in the refrigerator for a day, so if you are very sensitive to bitter taste, you may want to refrigerate and eat this cold instead of hot.

The sauce in the picture is brown because I used Balsamic vinegar. If you use cider vinegar you'll get a lighter sauce.

 

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2 thoughts on “Grandma’s Dandelion Greens. Take Two. The Bitter Truth

  1. Kerry Dexter


    Twitter:
    I always enjoy reading about how you experiment with recipes.I expect dandelion greens were a part of many of our ancestors’ diets — those or whatever greens grew near to hand. makes me think of the song
    Poke Sallet Annie — not sure if that’s one you’d know of ( the song or the green), a southern thing I think! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polk_Salad_Annie
    Kerry Dexter would like you to read..Music, connection, education: Nicola BenedettiMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      I’ve heard of poke sallet. I believe sallet is an old English expression for salad. When in Greece I enjoy eating a dish that translates on the menus as “wild greens” and I have no idea what it equates to in the greens with which we might be familiar.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying my experiments. By their nature, they are sometimes frustrating, and I’ve developed a great respect for “real” food writers and recipe developers!

      Reply

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