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Dining on Dandelions

What do you see when you look at your yard? There is so much growing right where you are that can not only be appreciated for it's beauty, but can also offer you so much in the way of nutrition and good health. I've always had a garden and enjoy growing my own food, but, encouraged by our herb walks and talks with Kat Conte, I've begun taking a closer look at what is growing outside the garden bed.

Possibly one of the easiest plants to work with, because they are so recognizable, is the dandelion. The simplest way to enjoy the dandelion and it's benefits are to put it right in your salad bowl, both the leaves and flowers. Leaves are less bitter when they are young, before the flowers are out. Or you can saute' them with a little oil, add salt, pepper and enjoy.

I'm happy to see the bright little dandelion heads popping up in my yard. I let them grow freely so I had many this year and wanted to try out some different ways to dine on dandelions. This is the perfect time for gathering dandelion flowers so my dinner last evening consisted of fried dandelions and cooked carrots with dandelion and honey butter. I was not at all disappointed in the results!

Before food preparations can begin we must harvest. I'll take walking out into my yard and picking flowers over a trip to the grocery store any day.

It only took about 10 minutes to harvest about 4 cups dandelion heads (this is enough for both recipes) with just enough of the stem to hold between my fingers and a handful of wild chives and mustard garlic to be used in my dip for the fried dandelions. Mustard garlic is an invasive, so I was not concerned about how much I picked. The dandelions however....

How to Sustainably Harvest Dandelions:

1. Remember that your mindfulness during all steps of your food preparation is part of what helps you receive the goodness of the food you eat. Harvest with gratitude for what the earth is giving you, with care for the environment in which you're gathering, and with clear thought that harvesting is part of the process that nourishes you.

2. Pick the bounty from areas that haven't been contaminated by pesticides, herbicides, people or animals. Choose areas away from roads and trail edges and where you know there haven't been pesticides or herbicides sprayed. Keep in mind that run off can cause contamination of areas as well.

3. Leave some for the bees and some to reseed. That's right, we want those little white dandelion make-a-wish seed heads to blow all around and be able to provide both us and the bees with more dandelions next spring. I meander and pick here and there, about one flower for every five in any one spot. You don't want to pick all of the flowers in any one area.

4. For this purpose I just picked the heads of the flowers. Shake them out to make sure you don't have any buggy hitchhikers. It is not necessary to wash your harvest, especially if you're picking in a clean area. If you do wash with water make sure you pat dry the flowers with a towel before proceeding with cooking.

Now to prepare your dandelions dishes!

Fried Dandelions with Wild Dip!

Fried Dandelions:

- 2 cups dandelion heads with as little green as possible. The green can be bitter so you'll want to pull as much of the involucral bracts, or what I'd prefer to call the little green leafy base on which the flower sits - off of your flower without it falling apart. I, personally don't mind the green and the bitter is part of the dandelion's benefit.

- 1 egg, beaten

- 4 tablespoons breading of your choice

I used polenta cornmeal

- seasonings of your choice (salt, pepper, garlic powder, be creative!) I used a pinch of cayenne pepper for spicy dandelions! Some grated parmesan cheese might be tasty too!

- 2 tbsp oil for frying I used olive oil.

Heat oil, dip dandelion head in egg, then in breading, place head side down in the pan until browned. It's quick! Remove from pan and voila! You've got crispy dandelions!

For your Wild Dip simply mix 1/4 cup of sour cream with a handful of chopped wild chives and mustard garlic. Dip your dandelions and enjoy! Even my picky kid ate them!

****Make sure you have positive plant identification and know what you're picking and eating.

Fried Dandelions with Wild Dip

Dandelion Honey Butter

I made a large batch to so I could freeze some of it. Feel free to reduce quantities!

- 1 cup of dandelion blossoms removed from the stem

- 1 cup of butter

- 3 tablespoons raw honey

- 2 tsp. cinnamon (optional) I consider honey and cinnamon inseparable. Your butter will be golden colored without the cinnamon.

- Cream all of the ingredients together

It is so tempting just to eat a whole spoonful of the butter by itself, but I resisted. I used my dandelion butter on cooked carrots and it was wonderful! Up next will be cinnamon rolls with dandelion butter.

I was really pleased with how simple it was to make both of these dandelion dishes. Plus, I enjoyed the benefits of preparing my food and eating directly from the goodness of the earth. I hope you enjoy it as well!