Dandy Greens

One thing everyone in my family agrees on — we do love eating greens. I have always been partial to Swiss chard. We usually froze it from our garden when I was growing up. Later, Mark and I decided that our very favorites are beet greens, but you have to be prompt and get the leaves when they are young and fresh. Mark passes on spinach, leaving it to our daughters and me, but even he has learned to eat my brother’s special creamed spinach at holiday times.
We’ve discovered the most wonderful cooked greens at a restaurant called Rotelli. The first time we tasted them, we ate them there, but Mark has ordered carryout several times since to bring home for a surprise treat. Come on now; yes, greens can be a treat!
In finding this week’s recipes, I discovered some writings by Donna Godfrey* on using dandelions. Dandelions seem to crop up overnight. Most people look at them as weeds to get rid of, but Donna writes, “They are a memory trigger for me. Grandma looked for those first blooms so we could have ‘Dandelion Salad’.
“Now, they have to be fresh, young greens. The yard at her home was never sprayed so it was chemical free and we could eat the salad greens.
“When she saw the first blooms, it was time to harvest some. She would put on her sunbonnet … it not only blocked the sun but, on spring days, kept her ears warm. She had these small baskets and knives that were just for cutting dandelions. We would get them by the root (that cleaned some from the yard) but she also wanted them with the root so they would stay fresh. We would clean them well, leaving the roots on, and put them in water in the fridge until time to make the salad.
“Sometimes grandma would add a cup of watercress to the salad; [it gave it a peppery taste]. I think I ate her salad [just] for the dressing.”
Dandelion greens may be used as a substitute for spinach or Swiss chard in many recipes. Cut the roots from the greens and discard. Wash well in cold water. Bring a large pot of water to a full boil and put the greens into the water by the handful. Bring water quickly back to the boil and cook just until wilted, two or three minutes. Drain and run cold water over to stop the cooking. Squeeze as much moisture out as possible. Pack in containers or plastic wrap and freeze.
Sometimes considered a delicacy in Europe, there are indeed some good things about this weed. Dandelions can act as a kind of tonic and a natural diuretic, and the roots can be roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute.
Godfrey mentions that her grandmother made dandelion wine, too. “Hold on.” she says, “She was not a drinker, but always used wine for ‘medicinal’ reasons. She would brew it up in earthen jugs and store it in the cellar. She was proud her recipe came from “Old Doc Lehman” [as if] that made it medicine.”
*Donna Godfrey grew up in a Mennonite family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now married, she has three children and three grandchildren. She lives in Georgia and writes a column called Cooking with Don.

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