These dandelion greens are of the improved variety; they are Italian dandelion, or Cichorium intybus. Check out the myriad of varieties available from PlantScout participating suppliers. These seeds came from Johnny's Selected Seeds.
The benefits of growing and eating these wonderful greens are numerous. First off, you can grow them in containers, and in this neck of the woods have a steady crop from May right through to late November. And take a look at the nutrition in just one cup of raw dandelion greens--these guys pack a wallop!
Calcium: 102.85 mg
Iron: 1.71 mg
Potassium: 218.35 mg
Protein: 1.49 g
Vitamin C: 19.25 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.14 mg
Vitamin E: 2.64 mg
Dietary Fiber: 1.9g
OK, so they're on the bitter side. It's how you dress them up and combine them with other flavors that make these a truly dandy meal. Let's take an ordinary salad of only dandelion greens. Try this: it's the very same dressing that my mom used to throw together many years ago.
Thinly slice an onion - any old kind will do - put in a pan with a tiny bit of oil (I use olive). Throw in a teaspooon of sugar and a nice splash of apple cider vinegar. Mince one-half slice of bacon. Heat on medium high heat til everything kind of dissolves into a mass of very soft -- well, stuff! You'll know by the smell and look when it's right for you. Pour this over your greens. We had some fresh tomatoes last night so I threw those on too. Even the kids will love it; the dressing just combats the bitter leaves in a very tasty manner.
The Italians use dandelion greens in their pasta dishes. Try this sometime and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the way the goat cheese completely takes the edge off of any bitterness. Cook 1 pound of fettucine. While the fettucine is cooking, heat 1/2 cup of chicken (or vegetable stock if a vegan) in a saucepan. Either mince or use a garlic press to add several cloves of garlic and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add in a few cups of chopped dandelion greens until completely wilted. Plate your pasta and right before serving, stir in as much goat cheese as you like - pour over the pasta immediately - toss and enjoy!
Please give dandelion greens a try. They're full of nutrition, super easy to grow and harvest even if you only have a balcony with a pot. I dare you - go look at a gourmet grocery around you....when you see the price charged for them, a small pack of seeds and nothing more than a sharp pair of scissors will convince you that these are most definately some delicious alternatives to plain old romaine.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 13, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)