Oh, what to do about the evil lurker known, properly known as Taraxacum Officinale? Never mind that dandelion greens are an amazing source of Vitamin A and beta-carotene, and are also rich in Vitamins B, C, D, calcium, iron and other minerals. Ignore that dandelion roots are used in natural medicine as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and diuretic. They are horrible nasty little bits of nature that find their way into every nook and cranny of our lawns and gardens. Have you seen the bright yellow flowers they produce in spring? Disgusting!
I treat these noxious little buggers exactly the way they deserve to be treated. Here's my simple process for dandelion weed management the organic way:
Step 1: Assemble your tools - basket, gloves, and scissors/pruners.
Step 2: Step outside, saying loudly to yourself and any neighbors who may be listening, "I AM GOING TO THE GROCERY STORE NOW!"
Step 3: Pull the dandelion up at the base, getting as much of the root as you can. You won't get it all and it hardly matters. Cut off the root and flower stem for the compost pile. Put the flower tops and leaves in the basket.
Congratulations! You've organically removed dandelions from your lawn, and they are halfway ready to be put in a pot. "Not fair!" you say. "They will grow back from the root that's left in the ground!" you say. True indeed, but you missed my point. I promised you information on the easiest way to remove "dandelion weeds" from your garden organically. And the easiest way to do that is to rename them "dandelion greens" and call them dinner. Done and done. However, if that does not satisfy you, I suggest you check out this article by radio garden host guru Mike McGrath consisting of actual lawn management tips for dandelion control.
As for those of you who are still reading, I leave you with a few dandelion recipes from my husband and renowned food nerd, Tom DiGangi Jr. He starts with a basic sauteed greens recipe, but things get really interesting from there. You can also find recipes from a quiet demure gentleman who goes by the name of "Wildman" Steve Brill. He tours, lectures, and writes all about foraging for wild foods, supplying detailed identification info along with recipes. The very first leaves of spring dandelions can be eaten raw or lightly sauteed, but they get progressively more bitter as they get older. The recipe below includes boiling the greens first, which helps soften the stronger late season flavors. You can also batter and deep fry the flower heads themselves for dandelion fritters. Better get picking!
Dandelion Greens Sauteed in Olive Oil and Garlic
2 C. packed dandelion greens, washed and chopped
1/4 C. olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced or minced
salt, pepper, red pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt. Thoroughly wash and pack dandelion greens. Add to boiling water and simmer for about five minutes until the leaves turn bright green. Immediately move greens to an ice water bath to retain the color and continue rinsing. (The boiling and rinsing helps remove the compounds that cause excessive bitterness, especially in dandelion greens that have already produced a flower). Let rest, and add olive oil to a saute pan turned on medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper and saute for a few minutes to release flavor but before garlic browns. Squeeze water out of the dandelion greens and add to saute pan to continue cooking until completely wilted, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Dandelion Pappardelle with Chicken Ragu (Serves 4)
Here are a few things to know about this recipe. First, pappardelle is a ribbon-shaped pasta about five inches long and one inch wide. Second, if you don’t have duck fat lying around the house like we do, just use a little extra olive oil or bacon fat. Third, please do not use chicken breast meat, as it will be dry and tasteless in this dish. Finally, stirring-in the ricotta cheese with the heat off is critical to making a creamy sauce. Enjoy!
2 ½C (300g) All-purpose flour
1C Blanched and squeezed-dry dandelion greens
4 Chicken thighs (bones and skin removed)
1T Extra virgin olive oil
3T Extra virgin olive oil
1T Duck fat
1 Yellow Onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1t Red pepper flakes
2t Dried sage
1C Red wine
8oz Canned Plum tomatoes with packing juice
½C frozen peas
2T Fresh garlic chives, minced
2T Ricotta cheese
2T Grated parmigano reggiano cheese
Salt to taste
To make the pappardelle, squeeze all of the water out of the dandelion greens and process to a fine paste in a food processor. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and process until well incorporated. Next, add the flour and process until a ball of dough is formed. Remove the dough and kneed for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface to form a smooth, not sticky, ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least a ½ hour. Roll out the pasta into thin sheets, using extra flour to keep the dough workable. Using a pasta roller attachment for an electric mixer is a good way to make the rolling process easier and the end product more consistent. Then cut the sheets into 1-inch wide ribbons to form the pappardelle.
To make the ragu, heat the duck fat and 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the chicken thighs for a few minutes on one side. Turn the chicken over and add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, red pepper flakes and sage. Sauté the chicken, vegetables and spices for a few minutes more, then add the tomatoes (crushing them in your hand as you go) and red wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 40 minutes. Add the peas and continue simmering for another 10 minutes.
To finish the dish, boil the pasta in a gallon of salted water for just a couple minutes. Add the pasta to the ragu. Remove the ragu from the heat. Stir in the chives and cheeses. Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately with a hearty red wine, like Dolcetto.
Thai Dandelion and Carrot Soup (Serves 2)
1 Quart Asian-inspired stock (see below)
1 Carrot, quarter inch dice
1 Quart freshly harvested dandelion greens (no roots or flowers, please)
1T fresh garlic chives, minced
2T soy sauce
Salt to taste
Blanch the dandelion greens by placing them in a large pot of salted and vigorously boiling water for two minutes. Remove the greens and “shock” them in a large bowl of ice water, mixing the greens until they are cool. Then drain the greens, and set-aside.
Combine a quart of the stock and the diced carrots in a small pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer until the carrots are almost cooked through (about 10 minutes). Chop the blanched dandelion greens into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot to simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and stir-in the chives and soy sauce. Adjust the salt to taste and slurp up the liquid health.
Handful of leftover chicken and/or pork bones
3-4 Fennel stems
3T Fresh cilantro
3 Dried Thai chiles
1 Star anise
3T sun dried tomatoes
3 Garlic cloves
3 Fresh quarter inch thick ginger slices
3 Quarts of water
To make the stock, combine all ingredients in a 4-quart (or larger) pot and simmer, mostly covered, for at least 2 hours. Skim the foam off the top of the stock occasionally while simmering. Pass the stock through a sieve. Discard the solids. Let your imagination and the contents of your pantry and fridge create variations on this list. Ultimately, you are just looking for a homemade, healthy and flavorful stock, with some classic Asian dimensions.
It’s not you, it’s me.
No, that’s a lie. It’s totally you. This is the part where I tell you exactly why it’s all your fault.
On paper, grapevines, we were a perfect match. I like eating grapes and you like growing them. How could we go wrong?
I had heard (through the grapevine – heh) that you might be a little fussy and high maintenance, but with my head held high and a fist full of internet research, I plowed on ahead. Your branches were dutifully cut back by 90% late every winter to just four growth nodes on each main branch of the “T.” I trained you to have a strong main trunk, and strung wire every 18” for your vines to spread. I offered you a nice living ground cover of peas and herbs. I mean, I tried. I really did. You could at least acknowledge that.
Maybe you would have been happier with a little more time and attention, and some sprays, but I’m just not INTO that. It’s not who I am. I can’t be a different person just to please you, grapevines, and it’s not fair of you to expect it from me. I probably could have found some organic treatments, and I even went so far as to buy Surround At Home Crop Protectant from Garden’s Alive, but couldn’t quite remember when to apply it. It’s the thought that counts!
It comes down to this; I have other stuff to do besides coddle you all day, grapevines. So what do you do the second I turn my back to harvest the garlic, or plant more spinach? You throw giant Japanese beetle sex orgies all over your leaves! I’m talking like, obscene 4 on 1 beetle action. It’s as though the entire cast of the Jersey Shore, plus all their friends from home (and even Angelina From season 1 and Vinnie’s incomprehensible Uncle Nino) were all reincarnated in beetle form and turned my garden into a Seaside Heights club named “Fuel” or “Tool” or “Pump”. Seriously, grapevines. Passive-aggressive much?
Relationships are a dynamic, I know, and we probably weren’t compatible from the start. New Jersey’s clay soil is not exactly your favorite environment, and growing up a fence probably left you stifled and cold. I think it’s time for us both to admit that we just don’t work well together.
I don’t regret my time with you, grapevines, and I’m not kicking you out since you obviously have nowhere to go. We’re just going to have to do that awkward thing where we live together as friends, but respect each other’s personal space. I promise to still cut your vines back - not with the precision you likely prefer, but you’ll have the freedom to grow however you desire. I’ll even try to remember to spray your grapes (should you choose to produce them, which you don’t really do anyway) with Plant Guardian to head off the black rot. Finally, if you insist on continuing your beetle sex orgies, I will look upon it without resentment and consider it your personal lifestyle choice. However, mark my words: if your little friends try to throw an after party in my heirloom perfume roses, I’ll murder every last one of them, and will enjoy watching Snookie and the Situation swirling to their respective deaths in a bucket of soapy water. So better spread the word.
In conclusion, grapevines, I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings too much and I know you will look back on this decision knowing it was the right thing to do for both of us. In the meantime, if you see me lovingly harvesting my asparagus beans, or happily trellising my favorite tomatoes, look away. Baby, look away.
Yours In friendship,
I am Laura; lover of plants, fan of words, drinker of wine, practitioner of yoga, planner of schemes, and conductor of the family crazy train, Check here for gardening fun, harvest recipes, yoga philosophy, and whatever else I love to write about.