If you stand very quietly in the Don Valley this weekend, somewhere around Todmorden Mills and the Brickworks, you might see them – tiny little women bent at the waist and wearing black. Trowels in hand, these mostly Greek and Slovenian women patiently search the valley floor for the first dandelion shoots of the season. When they spot their prizes they scoop them out in one silent, efficient gesture and are gone, vanished into the emerging greenery.
Are they guerrilla gardeners? Weed-hating vigilantes? No, these women know what you may not – that dandelions are an edible green with a lovely endive-like flavour. Believe it or not, the scourge of your lawn was imported to North America by French settlers as a vegetable prized for its heartiness and impressive nutritional profile (dandelions are rich in vitamin C, calcium, potassium and magnesium). The flowers and roots are also edible, but the peppery, slightly bitter young greens really shine in this spring-fresh salad.
Difficulty on a Scale of 1 (May Flowers) to 10 (April Showers): 4
2 cups chopped young dandelion greens – Unless you have a large, lovely lawn with excellent soil that has never, ever been sprayed, we suggest buying them from a grocery store or vegetable stand. Most carry them at this time of year. If you do pick your own, don’t wait much later than mid-April or the leaves will have become stringy and bitter. Do it NOW!
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
2 tomatoes diced
1/4 lb sharp cheddar or gruyere cheese, cubed
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp pumpkin seed oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dill
What to Do:
1. Ensure the dandelion greens are well washed before cutting into pieces.
2. Add the onions, tomatoes, and cheese. Toss to mix.
3. Make a salad dressing by mixing the pepper, salad oil, vinegar, and dill. Dress the salad, toss, and serve.
Tarting it Up
Some fresh mint, chopped into little green rags would be a beautiful and tasty garnish for this. Some pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan until just fragrant and sprinkled over would be very nice too.