Dandelion Leaf and Bacon Salad. Eat Your Weeds!
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There is something satisfying about growing and eating your own food – and something very satisfying about eating salad leaves that grow wild across your lawn, and that you'd just have to weed out if you didn't eat them up!
I'm talking about dandelions here, of course. Those annoying summer flower-weeds that gossip through their very presence of our lawn maintenance ineptitude to those smug looking homeowners that spend an inordinate amount of time inspecting their lawns…and mine!
OK, that last bit is probably all in my imagination, but I have to confess a certain laisez faire attitude to lawn care, and that combined with my pesticide free approach to weed control leaves my yard a bountiful field for dandelion leaf harvesting!
Vitamin Packed, Bitter Tasting Greens
Dandelion leaves are a bitter lettuce like salad leaf. They are packed full of nutrients; a single cup of raw dandelion leaves has more than your daily requirements of Vitamin A, a load of vitamin C and a surprising amount of calcium - early North American even settlers wrote about eating the leaves as a spring antidote to a vitamin poor winter diet, knowing instinctively what their bodies needed, even if they couldn’t tell you the vitamin count as we can today.
How to Harvest
Dandelion leaves are bitter; endive-like bitter, and for some people, this is an acquired taste. The leaves of May and June are the least bitter and the most preferred, and the leaves increase in bitterness as the summer season progresses. Smaller leaves are much less bitter than larger leaves, and leaves on plants that have not yet flowered are much less bitter than on already flowering plants.
For best taste, get out in the mid to late spring to harvest leaves off young plants that have not yet sprouted flowers.
I like dandelion leaves best as a part of a spring bacon salad. I mix dandelion leaves with a sweeter and milder tasting salad leaf, like Boston lettuce or romaine, to tame the bitterness slightly. Salty and smoky bacon dressings are a natural for strong leafy greens (think wilted spinach salad).
- 6 slices of bacon
- 2-3-4 Tbls of red wine or balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 cups of mild tasting lettuce leaves
- 1 cup of freshly picked young dandelion leaves
- ¼ cup of very thinly shaved Spanish or Vidalia onion
- 1 Tsp of Dijon mustard
- Fry up the bacon and reserve on a plate for crumbling into the salad.
- There should be about ¼ cup of bacon fat in the pan – let the bacon fat cool a little bit and then add in 2-3 Tbls of red wine or balsamic vinegar, the Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt. Whisk it all together and taste for seasoning, adding more vinegar or salt as necessary.
- Mix together the lettuce and dandelion leaves, the shaved onion and the crumbled bacon with enough warm bacon fat vinaigrette to well coat all the leaves. Taste and add more salt if needed.
This is a lovely salad with a slightly bitter kick from the dandelion leaves. Try it; it's a lot of fun to eat your weeds!
Obviously, if you or even any of your neighbors spray pesticides or herbicides, you should not eat your poisoned lawn!