Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My first forage

...was for dandelions in my own front yard :-)

On this Earth Day, with the weather topping out in the high 60s, I decided to do some yard tidying. First I raked out all the old leaves and such from the flower beds and lawn. Then I dragged the waste to the local compost area. Finally, I decided to buy a cool weeding tool I found at the local Ace Hardware and start harvesting.

There are soo many dandelions (circled in red above)! But the new tool, sandy soil and moist spring ground made them easy to extract. Pretty soon I had a whole bag full.

According to Bonnie Wolf on NPR's Website"dandelions were intentionally brought to the New World for their uses as food and medicine....the farm-raised version (is) less bitter than those in your front yard. Dandelion greens should be eaten in the early spring when they are the most tender." She also stated "(Dandelion) greens appear at the same time... fava beans and asparagus come to market. What bounty."

I agree-BUT, I was soon to realize, to get fresh-picked greens from my yard to my table takes a lot of elbow grease, and a lot of changes of water!

This is the true example of "slow food." First, I dumped my greens, grass, dirt and leaves and all, into the sink and poured cold water over them. I let them sit for probably 40 minutes or so until the dirt sank to the bottom. I picked out the bundles of dandelions and carefully drained the sink (to keep the drain from getting stopped up.) I then snipped off the roots (for woot! Making roasted root coffee! ) and filled the sink back up with water. I rinsed the leaves around in the water and let them sit again.

Then came the most labor intensive part. I sorted the leaves into three piles. One pile was going to be use for a recipe I read about in Saveur Magazine (pronounced "sah-VUR"-rhyming with "concur"): fave e cicorie (fava beans with dandelion greens). I chose the larger leaves, snipping off the lower stems. The second pile was for salad greens and I chose small leaves for this pile. The final pile was for the discarded stems and junk. This took about 80 minutes. It made me think of women in the past who did stuff like this all the time. Granted they probably had help (daughters, extended family and friends,) and they didn't have the blogs to post, photos to take etc. that I was distracted with. Still, it's always eye opening to realize how much work it takes to make food that the modern person is use to buying prewashed in plastic bags.

Finally, it was time to make the recipe, which includes:

- Fava Beans (which I don't have so I'm subbing lima beans)
- Thyme
- Garlic
- Olive oil
- Salt
- Pepper
- Dandelion greens
- Onion
- Red pepper flakes
- Lemon juice

You mush up the beans with the first 6 ingrediants, then cook the next ingrediants and place them on top of the mush (there is more detailed recipe here.) Here is the photo that was in the magazine (by James Oseland):

And here's mine!

SO, how did it taste???

It was... fancy tasting! Or to be more exact, "complex." I left the skins on the lima beans when I smushed them up (with a fork, not with a blender) and so the bean portion was distinctly chewy and heartily mealy in its texture. The flavor was full and not overpowered by the garlic, but the garlic did bring a bitterness that echoed the flavor of the greens. The greens themselves had a strong taste, but not in a bad way-dandelion greens are meant to be bitter. Also, the hot spice of the red pepper flakes distracted slightly from the bitterness.

When eaten together, the sour citrus of the lemon really tied the dish together. My olive oil was very flowery, and I would probably go with a lighter oil if I made the dish again. All together, the creaminess of the beans came through without any dairy which was a pleasant surprise (I didn't miss the lack of any butter, cheese, cream etc.). If I were to add anything, I'd look at adding an earthy chopped mushroom to the beans. All together, it was awesome!

P.S. Many of the dandelions had small just-formed flower buds, which I left on when I cooked the leaves. They were the most delicious treats!

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