What is it?
Dandelion (or teraxacum), the small yellow garden flowers you used to use to try to make your little brother wee himself – or at least if you were that type of elder sibling. Despite its strong diuretic effect, dandelions are indeed edible, and are making a comeback as an addition to new high cuisine dishes.
Why haven’t I heard of it until now?
Possibly a wood-for-trees scenario: it’s so abundant and such a part of childhoods spent playing around in the grass, trying to eat dandelions might occur to many people over the age of 7. But it has been part of traditional dishes in Slovenian, Chinese and Greek cuisine. Rumour has it though that it is making its way into the mainstream with a new trend towards bitter food, while dandelion wine or cordial is fairly common, and it is apparently also an ingredient in root beer.
Is it good for me?
Dandelion contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and K and calcium, iron, potassium and manganese. Though it’s unlikely you’ll eat very much of it at a time, so I wouldn’t rely on it to get your RDAs. Oh, and it is diuretic, if you need that kind of thing.
How much will it cost?
These herbs literally grow on the side of the road, so very cheap indeed. If it is the big hit it's predicted to be in future food, however, we can soon expect some highly-cultivated and slightly pricier packs of dandelion on the market at a price probably roughly equivalent to a pack of herbs now (€1.60 or so). Dandelions are usually an unwelcome garden guest, so if you are foraging watch out for sprayed chemicals or weedkiller on them.
What does it taste like and what can I use it for?
Very bitter. Most recipes will recommend that you blanch/sauté/steam it well to help counter the bitterness, and use it as a replacement for herbs such as basil for salads, pestos and pasta sauces. It is often paired with garlic and other strong flavours; plus you can make a caffeineless ‘dandelion coffee’ from its roots. Check out a list of great recipe ideas here.
So, anyone for some dandelion pizza?