fiddlehead definition

fid·dle·head [ fídd'l hèd ] (plural fid·dle·heads) noun
Definition: edible fern shoot: the coiled frond of a young fern, often cooked and eaten as a delicacy

Monday, March 31, 2014


I picked up these greens from Woodland Gardens at the new Freedom Farmer's Market at the Carter Center.
Dandelions are one of the first spring greens to appear and also one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables. Their bright, somewhat bitter, and fresh leaves are a welcome mitigation from winter's starch-laden and preserved foods. Often used as a spring tonic, dandelion greens are rich in vitamins A, C, E, D, K, as well as copper, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium. They are higher in beta carotene than carrots and higher in calcium and iron than spinach. They are also a great source of protein and fiber. Beyond vitamins and minerals, dandelion greens have properties that support digestion, reduce swelling, and act as an antibacterial.
notebook sketch
All parts of dandelion are edible: the leaves, flowers, stems, and root. They emerge from January to May and are best at this time. "Best" is an understatement. I wouldn't want to eat bitter dandelion greens any time other than spring. The younger the plant, the less bitter and more tender. New fronds are almost sweet and are more nutritious. There are ways to lessen the sharpness of the leaves beyond simply using younger leaves in early spring. Process them with some sort of naturally occurring fat (nuts, seeds, oils...). They make a great pesto. Blend them in a smoothie with fruit. Grill them as you would romaine or sauté like spinach. The leaves also make a great green for sandwiches.

Dandelion leaves are smooth and green and grow in rosettes from the roots. The edges are indented in large "teeth." It is wonderful to purchase greens from farmers' markets but foraging has an advantage- the crowns. The crown is the knot-like bit sitting upon the taproot just where the leaves meet it. It is kind of artichoke-y and contains the flower buds. Always remember to gather dandelions only from ground clear of road run-off or chemicals.
 The roots of dandelion are often dried, roasted, and ground as a coffee substitute or even added to cookies and cakes. I find them best like any boiled vegetable. Clean, peel, and chop the root and  boil the slices roots for 5+ minutes. Add salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil.

Those bright, happy flowers we made headdresses of as children (well, I did) are more than just spots of sunshine in the grass; they are quite tasty. Dandelions have composite flowers. Hundreds of tiny ray flowers make up the "flower" we see. From this, we make dandelion wine, natural dyes, vinegar, battered and fried flowers, or add the bright petals to spring salads. Or for a fun spring cocktail or soda, try making dandelion flower syrup:
Dandelion Flower Syrup
2 cups petals (tightly packed)
2 cups sugar (can use honey as well)
2 cups water
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
  • wash flowers and remove petals
  • cover with water
  • bring to a boil for 1 minute
  • remove from heat
  • let steep overnight or for several hours
  • strain
  • add sugar and lemon
  • boil then reduce to simmer for 1 1/2 hr
  • decant in bottle or mason jar
  • use in place of simple syrup

 This prolific "weed" is the scourge of suburban lawns but no matter how many chemicals are doused upon this source of nutrition, medicine, and burst of cheer, it remains. The dandelion's fortitude reflects upon its prowess.
Perhaps the best part of the dandelion is when the flower goes to seed and hundreds of tiny parachutes send them far and wide with our wishes. Make a wish, you.