Each Spring a primordial urge pulls me out of the house –paring knife and bowl in hand– to the weedy natural area at the far edge of my yard. Luscious green dandelion plants peek through the brown leaf-covered grass. The winter has been long and hard, and I desperately need to renew myself. The tender foraged greens are my spring tonic (as they were for my parents and grandparents).
People traditionally ate a very limited selection of foods during the late winter months, and often they were nutrient-deprived by April. Their bodies told them they needed the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants provided by the emerging dandelion leaves.
Since I’m a dandelion connoisseur (Is it possible to be a connoisseur of weeds?) , I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Dandelion with Ham or Bacon.
I made the ham version. The ham bits nicely balanced the slight bitterness of the small tender dandelion leaves. As I hungrily devour the dish, I can almost feel the nutrients surging through my body. I’ve made it through another winter. Spring (and fresh food) have arrived – and I know that the summer’s bounty will be here soon. Life is good.
Here’s the original recipe:
When I made this recipe, I made one-quarter of the original recipe. Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Dandelions with Ham or Bacon
2 quarts dandelion (8 cups)
4 ounces ham or bacon, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Thoroughly wash the dandelion. (I triple wash it, and it is a slow process. The washing of the dandelion is what takes most of the time when making this recipe.) Put in a large sauce pan and cover with boiling water. Place on stove, bring back to a boil using high heat. Boil for 15 seconds then remove from heat and drain thoroughly. Just barely cover the dandelion with fresh boiling water, add ham or bacon, salt, and pepper. Cover and place back on the stove. Return to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until the meat is tend and the dandelions are almost dry (they should still have a little juice (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat. If desired, serve with boiled turnips or potatoes.