Good morning, dear reader. It is raining and chilly in Western Pennsylvania this morning. Despite the rain clouds, I see bright, happy dandelions smiling back at me when I look out into the fields and our yard. Personally, I like dandelions. Many view them as weeds and eradicate them from their properties, but dandelions represent spring, sunshine, and upcoming warm weather. I like to keep dandelions around because they attract bees. There is something so happy about a bee sitting in the middle of a big, fat, bright yellow dandelion.
Dandelions are also very nutritious. When my Chinese friend, CiCi, stayed with us, she walked the property every morning and returned with huge bundles of dandelions with their roots intact. When she went outside, CiCi wore a wide floppy sun hat and knee-length green Wellingtons. She would raise her massive bundles of dandelions over her head like a big game hunter and shout, “DANDELIONS!” We would clap, laugh, and shout, “DANDELIONS!” back to her. She always responded with, “Yes, good!” CiCi would then boil the dandelions in water, pour the water into mason jars, and make us drink hot dandelion water for breakfast. At first, we thought it was odd, but CiCi insisted upon it. If you have ever spent time around a Chinese lady, you know there is no arguing with her. If we did not finish our dandelion water for breakfast, she would put it in a water bottle and periodically push it in our faces throughout the day with instructions to “DRINK!”
At first, we didn’t like the bitter dandelion water. When we were alone, we would complain about it. However, after a few weeks, we began to crave the bitter concoction, and drinking it became our routine. CiCi would also take the boiled dandelion greens and put them inside steamed handmade dumplings. CiCi’s dandelion dumplings were delicious. The food one eats from a Chinese restaurant isn’t anything like the food CiCi made for us. I prefer CiCi’s handmade food over deep-fried restaurant creations.
As a kid, I remember my pop eating dandelion salad with hot bacon dressing. My pop would pick dandelions from the yard and wooded area near their home. He would bring them in and give them to my grandma. She would clean them and put them in the refrigerator, make the hot bacon dressing, and then serve it with dinner. I remember being reluctant to try it as a kid. However, as an adult, with the knowledge of how nutritious dandelion greens are, I find dandelion salad to be quite delicious. Today, I will share my recipe for dandelion salad.
I have learned that dandelion salad is a popular Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. I like to serve it with hard-boiled eggs and a small red onion finely sliced. Although dandelions are very nutritious, I’m confident the hot bacon dressing negates any nutritional value. However, it is delicious! After all, it is bacon. If you don’t have the time, patience, or inclination to pick your own dandelions, you can also serve the dressing with a fresh spring mix of greens from the grocery store. I encourage you to try the salad with fresh young dandelions at least once. As my dear friend CiCi often declared, “GOOD FOR YOU!” Enjoy, dear reader.
Fresh Dandelion Salad With Hot Bacon Dressing
8 Cups Young, Fresh Dandelion Greens
1 Large Egg
½ Cup White Sugar
½ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Cups Water
1 lb. Bacon Cooked Crisp and Broken Into Bite Size Pieces
2 TBLS. All Purpose Flour
6 Hard Boiled Eggs, Sliced or Quartered
1 Small Red Onion, Finely Sliced
Thoroughly wash the dandelion greens, place them in a large serving bowl, and set aside.
Whisk together the egg and sugar until smooth.
Add the vinegar and water. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
Cook the bacon on low heat until crispy. Be careful not to burn the bacon. You don’t want little black bits in the bacon grease. Drain cooked bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. When cool enough to handle, break into small pieces.
Add the flour to the bacon grease and stir until thick and bubbly.
Add the sugar, egg, water, and vinegar mixture to the skillet with the thickened bacon grease.
Stir constantly over low heat until bubbling. If the mixture appears too thick, add a bit more water, a few tablespoons at a time.
When desired thickness has been reached, add the bacon pieces and stir.
Pour the hot dressing over the dandelion greens and allow them to wilt.
Top the greens with hard-boiled eggs and sliced red onion.
This salad can be served as a light meal or a side. I add fresh bread or garlic bread sticks when I serve it for lunch.
Often, we overlook nutritious plants that grow in our own backyard. If you gather dandelions to eat, be sure to forage them from areas free of pets, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers. My friend CiCi claimed our farm was “a treasure trove of nutritious food.” Cici was knowledgeable in foraging, herbology, and nutrition. When she lived in China, she was a licensed dietician, and her father was the village healer. However, be sure to practice safety, caution and do your research before consuming anything from the wild.
As always, stay safe, be smart, eat simple, nutritious foods from your own backyard, and keep washing your hands.