Monday, May 14, 2012

Eating is the Best Revenge

A few years after we moved into our home in Colorado, my husband and I laid an enormous flagstone patio and pathway. It took us most of a summer to get the slope right and fit the stones in place. Rather than putting gravel between the stones, I opted to leave it natural, imagining the Woolly Thyme, wild strawberries, and Johnny Jump-ups growing between the flagstones. Those flowers have a foothold, but the gaps between really are the perfect habitat for dandelions.
Free Food
I kept after the dandelions for a few years. But I have a neighbor who loves them. When the wind blows, it drops the seeds from her dandelions right onto my patio. Fighting the dandelions is futile. Eating them is much more practical.

According to the USDA, dandelions are one of the best vegetable sources of beta-carotene, rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamine and riboflavin, and protein. All of the dandelion is edible, from flower to pesky root.

Earlier this month, when the flowers were just beginning to take over the yard, my son Berg brought me a big bowlful, and asked me to fry them for him.
Trimmed for Frying
Trim the stems and the greens off the base of the flowers (those little leaves can be tough and bitter). 

Dandelion Fritters
1 cup flour 
1 tsp baking powder
Generous sprinkling of seasonings (I used thyme, red and black pepper, salt and garlic powder)
1 cup buttermilk

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk. Fry petals in a hot skillet with fat of choice (I used a combination of olive oil and butter). If you press the flowers face down, they will fan out. Remove to paper towels, salt as needed, and eat while hot. 

When you tire of frying individual flowers, dump the rest in the batter and make fritters. 

Children eagerly take their vitamins if you fry them.
I wanted to try to mirror Julie's nettle pesto, but that would have meant a drive down the pass, and we were staying home this weekend. We had rain and snow on Friday, with lots of fresh new dandelion shoots when the sun came out on Saturday. 
Wash dandelions as you would any greens, in a sinkful of cold water.
Dandelion Pesto
Large bunch of dandelion greens, washed and spun dry
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Whirl up the ingredients in your food processor, adding a thin stream of olive oil until you make a paste. I like to use pecans when making pesto from bitter greens such as dandelion, which can stand a little more fat. I also use pecans when making pesto from radish leaves and cilantro. We have a friend whose mother owns a pecan farm in Alabama, so we buy them in bulk from her every fall. 
Pesto Mis en Place
I put the result on a grilled pizza Saturday night. 

Pizza Dough (adapted from Alton Brown)
16 ounces flour (My favorite for baked goods is Blue Bird, milled in Cortez, Colorado. Thanks to Suzanne Burkle for introducing it to me!)
2.5 teaspoons dry yeast
1 Tablespoon salt 
12 ounces warm water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
.5 Tablespoon molasses

Whisk together the dry ingredients, and combine the wet. Add the wet to the dry, mixing and then kneading until it pulls together. Put dough into a clean bowl with a little olive oil, and turn the dough to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours. Remove dough and let warm an hour or so before making pizza. If you're only making one pizza, just take out a third of the dough. I've kept this recipe in the refrigerator for five days, and the flavor only improves.

Preheat grill to 400, and make sure that grates are very clean. 

Cut dough into thirds. Work into a 12-inch round with your hands or a roller, on a floured board. Move pizza to a floured peel. Brush top of pizza with olive oil. Flip onto hot grill. Let cook 3-4 minutes. Brush uncooked top of pizza with olive oil, and flip over. Spread pizza with pesto, and top with red onions, roasted yellow peppers, and fresh mozzarella. Cover grill and let cook another 3-4 minutes, until cheese has melted.
Grilled Pizza with Dandelion Pesto
As any gardener knows, picking the yellow flowers and trimming back the leaves of the dandelion only leads to more flowers and leaves. If you're trying to rid your yard of them, this is maddening. If you're going to eat them all summer, it's comforting to know that they will never really go away.


  1. Looks great! I have always liked using pecans in my pesto. I'll have to try the dandelion leaf variety this summer. We're a little bit behind you here in Alaska so not many are popping out yet. Should be able to harvest some spruce tips here shortly though.
    Your photos are making me hungry!

  2. the pesto looks awesome! tho' most of our dandelions currently go to our bunnies. however, there are plenty, so i'm definitely going to try this this week! i also like that you don't cut quite as much off the dandelions as i have's a lot of work the way i do it. i like your way much better. :-)