September 13, 2013

Flavor Friday is a weekly column that explores trending flavors and off-the-wall ingredients you've got to try—even if just once.
I’m a huge fan of greens. Arugula, collards, and kale—they all excite me the way a cupcake probably should. As a kid I once ate so many helpings of turnip greens I made myself sick. For me, the perk of eating greens is that you never have to eat them the same way twice, because they take on a new form and flavor with every preparation (kale chips, anyone?). They even sneak into your juice!

I found some dandelion greens—the weeds growing in your yard—at the store the other day. They’re a controversial variety. I had heard that as far as greens go, they have a bitter taste that is completely unpalatable to some. I’ve also heard they could be tamed with rich ingredients and specific cooking methods, like blanching. Curiosity struck and, without a patch of grass to my name, I found myself a proud owner of some weeds.

Store-bought and wild dandelion greens are both perfectly edible, although slightly different. It should be noted, if you plan on foraging your own dandelion greens it is imperative that you know whether or not they have been sprayed. If you are 115% sure yours haven’t been treated, you’re ready to enjoy a sustainable and nutritious vegetable. Tasty though? Up for debate.

I completely understand some people’s disinterest after trying them raw. While it was quite bitter, I was actually more offended by the texture. It felt like I had taken a bite out of an artificial plant leaf. I didn’t have high hopes, but I did have bacon. I tore and washed the leaves while I fried up a couple slices of bacon and cut a tomato. After removing the bacon, I threw the dandelion greens right in with the reserved grease and let them wilt for a few minutes before finishing with Parmesan cheese.

It was unbelievable. Granted, bacon was involved, but in a matter of minutes the greens transformed from a bad taste in my mouth to an ingredient I’ll swear by. What was left of the bitterness was almost peppery, and with the salty bacon fat there was no need for additional seasoning. The stiffness that was so off-putting raw actually helped the greens maintain their shape. The consistency reminded me a lot of cooked collards, an old favorite.

You can’t beat the price (free), and they’re loaded with nutrients like vitamin A, iron, and calcium if you're willing to push past the initial weirdness. When those pesky dandelions pop up next, don't pull your hair out over pulling weeds! Channel your inner food forager instead.

Ways with dandelion greens from MyRecipes:Dandelion Greens with Currants and Pine NutsDandelion and Grapefruit SaladWarm Kabocha Squash Salad

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