One thing we've learned from the recent revival of foraging is that “weed” is a relative term. Your plate of fancy Nordic cuisine. Your father's idea of a bad day with a lawnmower. That said, some of the best examples of greenery you can find at your local farmers market (if not your own backyard), are plants that many people have long considered weeds: nettles, nasturtiums, mustard, arugula, purslane, chickweed. That we pay money for dandelion greens is either ironic or absurd, depending on your point of view, but however you source them, they're pretty great on a plate.
With the volatile weather we've been having, which has thrown a wrench in the cycle of much seasonal produce, dandelion greens are reliably available pretty much year-round from many market vendors. Tamai Farms has the greens for $1.50 a bunch, and carries them most weeks, as do other farmers. Another advantage: These are very hardy greens, and can stand up to a long ride home or time in your refrigerator. (Remember the lawnmower.)
Pleasantly assertive, the bitterness of dandelion greens can be enjoyed or tamed by a quick sauté or a dose of warm vinaigrette (add bacon or shallots). Add them to salads or pestos, or chop them and toss them into soups for some color and a bit of torque. Or try one of these great recipes.
Food52's dandelion greens salad
This is a lovely recipe from the folks at Food52, a salad of the greens, poached eggs and bacon. Imagine a more pungent version of the classic French bistro frisée salad. The trick to this, and many other recipes involving warm vinaigrettes, is to let the heat of the dressing slightly wilt the bitter greens, which not only combines the flavors but tames the greens a bit in the same process. The addition of maple syrup adds a bit of sweetness which plays off the salt and oil of the bacon – and maybe reminds you to head to your local diner for breakfast tomorrow.
Chicory (or dandelion greens) in anchovy sauce from Saveur
Bitter greens match extremely well with salty bits, not only bacon but anchovies – the marvelous and often ignored little fish that are not only insanely good for you, but still happily inexpensive. This very simple recipe combines the greens with a quick dressing of smashed anchovies and raw garlic, oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Get some crusty bread and a glass of wine and you pretty much have a meal.
Dandelion pumpkin seed pesto from The Kitchn
Pesto recipes, almost by definition, can be endlessly variable. Because once you've started with basil and pine nuts and a mortar and pestle, you'll realize that you can switch out the ingredients (and the equipment) to match seasonality, availability and flavor profile. This recipe keeps the garlic, Parmesan and olive oil, but adds pumpkin seeds and dandelion greens for a kind of ingenious (and much less expensive) combination.
Mark Bittman's dandelion greens with double garlic
This is a beautifully simple recipe from The New York Times columnist and prolific cookbook author, in which the dandelion greens are wilted and tamed by hefty doses of garlic – both minced and sliced. Bittman gives the less garlicky option of adding ginger, and adds some red pepper flakes and a dose of lemon at the end for a hit of acid.
David Lebovitz's dandelion pesto with soupe au pistou
The Paris-based pastry chef, blogger and cookbook writer does a LOT with his version of dandelion green pesto: adds it to pizza, to potato salad, to cooked farro or wheatberries, and to a bowl of his fantastic soupe au pistou, the classic vegetable soup from Provence. It may be winter right now or it may not, but a pot of soup sounds pretty fantastic, particularly topped with a giant spoonful of dandelion green pesto. And remember to get that loaf of bread.
See also: 5 Great Recipes for Cabbage