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.
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:
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.