In this time of social distancing and sometimes limited fresh produce in the grocery stores, there is an alternative, free means of supplementing any diet with delicious, free-range greens while enjoying the outdoors.
As soon as the grass starts to turn green, a common tooth-leaved “weed” starts to appear. Taraxacum officinale, the often- maligned common dandelion, is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamins A, C, E (Alpha Tocopherol), and K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese.
Many people try dandelion greens about the time the first flowers appear. By this time, the greens are very bitter. When they first appear is the best time to utilize the greens of the dandelion.
One of the favorite early season dandelion treats has been called “Yard Squid” because of the shape of the young plant used in the recipe. Delicious, crispy and not bitter, this dish is kid and husband approved. Grab your hand gardening tools and go Free Range Shopping in your yard. Remember to gather any wild edible at least 50 feet from any roadway, where there has been no use of pesticides or herbicides, and away from polluted streams or ditches.
“Yard Squid” Young Dandelion Crowns Tempura
When the dandelion leaves are approximately 2 inches in length, dig the whole young dandelion plant. Cut the plant so the leaves are still attached to the crown or where the plant attaches to the root. Wash in cold water, pat dry on paper towel.
½ C cornstarch
1/8-1/4 C flour (to make thin batter)
¼-1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 egg white slightly beaten
2/3 C cold water
Oil enough to depth of ½ inch in a frying
Prepared dandelion crowns “yard squid”
Whisk ingredients together.
Fold or dip yard squid in batter until coated Drop in single layer into hot oil. Turn once with tongs or slotted spoon. Fry until lightly golden and crisp.
Serve hot with soy sauce, duck sauce or just “as is”.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County offers classes in foraging and the identification of wild edible plants from May-October for adults. Youth 4H programs in environmental education through teen experiential learning that includes hands-on identification and preparation led by trained instructors. More information can be found online.
Photo of Dandelion crown cut to make Yard Squid.