Things You Should Know About Spring Greens And Other Vegetables
Here in the South we forage for and love our greens. There are numerous sites great to find the plants that are safe and delicious for seasonal side-dishes. Before you wrinkle your nose try them and do yourself a favor.
Dandelion greens are the red and green leaves that grow from the hollow stem of a dandelion plant. These greens are also known as a “Swedish mum.” The plant belongs to the same family as a sunflower. Just like many other greens, the younger leaves are softer and milder, whereas the larger leaves are more robust in flavor. There is not a difference in texture or flavor between red and green stems.
A bunch of dandelion greens is similar in size to a bunch of kale. The leaves are narrow with jagged points all along the edges. They have an earthen, pleasantly bitter flavor that is easily mellowed after they’ve been cooked or wilted. Dandelion greens come into season at the very onset of spring, in late March or early April, but can be purchased year-round.
Dandelion greens are available in various stores year-round, but be mindful of their peak season. Specialty grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, typically carry them, but if you can’t track them down at the store, you may have more luck at your local farmers’ market or in a CSA box. Talk to local growers about when dandelion greens are most abundant in your area.
The best way to clean dandelion greens is to run them under cold water to rinse away any dirt or sediment. Clean them over a colander or in your salad spinner, then pat the leaves dry with paper towels.
Wrap the greens up in a damp paper towel, seal them in a zip-top bag, and keep them refrigerated. If the leaves become limp or dried out, pour some water into a wide-rimmed glass and add the stems of the bunch to the water. This will help to revive the leaves’ crispness.
Dandelion greens can be used just as you might cook with kale, chard, mustard greens, or spinach. Depending on the size of the leaves, you may need to cook the larger, heartier greens for a little longer to allow them to break down. The stems are perfectly edible — they’re not so tough and fibrous that you would need to remove them before cooking. However, it is a good idea to trim off the woody ends of the stem before cooking the greens.
Ready to get creative with this under-appreciated gem? Roughly chop up a bunch or two of greens and braise them in olive oil with minced garlic, chili flakes, and a couple of pours of stock. Finish off the braised greens with a touch of cream and grated cheese for a rich, silky finish.