PEI

Dandelions: ubiquitous and 'delicious'

For some they're a nuisance but for others they're nutritious.

'I have been eating dandelions for a long time'

Chef Ilona Daniel has been adding dandelions to her meals — like this dandelion green, garlic and egg scramble — since studying in Italy. (Chef Ilona Daniel)

For some they're a nuisance but to others they're delicious. 

P.E.I. is heading into dandelion season and Chef Ilona Daniel has some recipes for clearing your lawn and filling your stomach.

After some heavy rainfall, P.E.I.'s dandelions are just waiting to pop up, she told CBC Radio: Mainstreet P.E.I.'s Matt Rainnie.

Daniel lived in Tuscany, Italy, while she apprenticed to become a chef. She said in Canada we use mixed salad greens and different parts of the world have their own versions of that.

"Where I was staying we incorporated a lot of young dandelion greens," she said. "I view them as delicious."

She was confused at first and wasn't sure the dandelions would be any good, Daniel said.

'The entire plant is edible, which is kind of cool,' says Daniel. (Heather Ogg)

"I came to realize it is quite delicious, so I have been eating dandelions for a long time."

Some people view dandelions as a weed and not a food source and with people foraging their own greens it is important to know what you can and can't eat so you don't get sick, Daniel said.

"Dandelions are quite common — everyone is familiar with them," she said. "Dandelions have been eaten throughout the ages in different cultures and different ancient dynasties."

Bursting with nutrients

Dandelions are full of nutrients like iron and calcium as well as fibre, Daniel said.

A smoked salmon cake with a dandelion-avocado cream made by Daniel. (Ilona Daniel)

"The entire plant is edible, which is kind of cool," she said. "A lot of people, when I talk about dandelions, the first thing that often comes up is kind of that hippy dandelion wine, but there is a lot more going on."

It is important to note what is going on near the dandelions you pick, Daniel said.

"You need to wash them well. You don't want to get your dandelions from the roadside because you don't want a ton of exhaust on stuff you are eating."

Wash dandelions the same way as lettuce or any other green, Daniel said.

Salad, stir fry, or deep-fried

"Right now these young baby greens are prime. So you can add those into a salad if you want to."

Daniel's own recipe of cremini mushrooms and dandelion greens. (Ilona Daniel)

Daniel said she loves to toss dandelions into a stir fry.

"I'll put it in with some beef, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, garlic — awesome."

A Korean version of dandelion salad that has sesame seeds, sesame oil and a little bit of kimchi if you like is "amazing," Daniel said. 

Skeptical of trying something new? Deep-fried dandelions may be a good way to start, she said.

And just what does a dandelion taste like? 

"I hate to use the word floral, but it is a flower. There is a little bit of earthiness to it, reminiscent of kale," said Daniel, calling it a "gentle" type of snack.

She offered up her recipe for crispy dandelion flowers for anyone who wants to try dandelions this spring.

Crispy Dandelion Flowers

  • 40 dandelion flowers, stalks and any extra green parts removed.
  • Olive oil for frying.
  • 4 tbsp cornmeal or flour.
  • Pinch of salt.
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  • 1 tsp dried oregano.
  • ½ tsp granulated onion.
  • 2 eggs, beaten.

Rinse dandelion flowers well and gently pat dry. 

Heat two or three centimetres of oil in a frying pan and heat to medium-high.

Mix the cornmeal or flour with the salt, black pepper, granulated onion and dried oregano.

Dip the flowers first in the beaten egg and then in the seasoned cornmeal or flour. Fry in batches, stalk side up, for around three minutes or until golden.

Remove and drain on paper towel. Serve with your favourite sour cream or mayonnaise-based dip.

More P.E.I. news

With files from CBC Radio: Mainstreet

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