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Dandelion greens are often overlooked, but they're in prime season locally during the spring and early summer weeks—right about now. Dandelion flowers might be a menace in your front yard, but forage for or buy the leaves and you have a tasty component for your next salad, soup, side dish or appetizer. Dandelions are high in Vitamins A and B, as well as protein, riboflavin and numerous minerals, making them a nutritional powerhouse. Some even consider them a superfood. So you see, they aren't just annoying weeds after all!

How to Buy and Store Dandelion Greens

You can forage for wild dandelions (preferably not on a dog-walking path or by telephone poles or railway tracks where weed-killers are used) or buy them in the produce department of your local grocery store. If you are foraging, get them early while they are young and tender, before the flowers turn into puffballs!

In a Starring Role at: Coppa Osteria

If you want to see just how just this misunderstood weed can be, just try the smoked mozzarella at Coppa Osteria in Rice Village. It comes with wilted dandelion greens as well as roasted mushrooms and garlic, and crostini. This complex fusion of flavors is a real treat for the palate. To add another note, why not sample this special delicacy with one of the forty rosé wines Coppa Osteria offers.

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Image: Shutterstock

Dandelion Recipe Ideas

Tender young leaves are nice used in salads, or if they're not so young, you can blanch them. If you're using them in a salad, it's best to use nine parts mild greens to every one part dandelion to counteract any bitter flavor. Consider adding feta cheese, red onion, carrot and raisins. Leaves are also excellent thrown in your morning smoothie or juice. If you have the whole plant, not just the leaves, the roots can be roasted to make a substitute for coffee or boiled for half an hour and then eaten. Discard the green collar around the neck of the flower. You can't use it for anything because it's really bitter.

If you have a whole plant, sauté the white leaf stems just around the roots in olive oil or bacon grease, and enjoy this with scrambled eggs for breakfast. The oil or grease contrasts with the bitterness of the stems to make the overall taste better. An oil and vinegar mixture is ideal for dressing the greens for the same reason. Dip the flowers in tempura batter and fry them, or add them to salads for an elegant touch. Or, if you're willing to wait, the flowers may be used to make dandelion wine. 

Recipe: Spring Green Soup

Dandelion greens pair with Swiss chard to make this spring green soup. Other flavors include garlic, fennel, mint and a kick of chile. This dandy dandelion recipe packs a nutritional punch and the flavor is a hit too. This makes eight servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch dandelion greens, stemmed
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped chile pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel
  • 1 cup peeled, cubed potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup shredded feta cheese

Instructions

Cook the dandelion greens, chard, green onions, butter, chile pepper and garlic for a few minutes until the greens wilt. Add the fennel, potatoes, salt, sugar, white pepper and broth. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Let the soup cool for 15 minutes, then stir in the milk, yogurt and mint. Purée in a blender or food processor. Divide the soup between 8 soup bowls, topping with the feta. If you like, add a dollop of yogurt and a fresh mint sprig as a garnish too.

Stay tuned every week to learn more about what's fresh and exciting at the market and discover where you can enjoy the flavorful bounty of the season.

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Coppa Osteria

$$$ Italian 5210 Morningside Dr .

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