Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dandelion Green Pesto and Roasted Dandelion Root Tea (or weeds)

I have never really understood why people hate dandelions. I see people spending hours in their yards trying to get rid of them, I just don't see the point (especially given that our yard is full of them). I can't stand spending hours pulling them (unless it's for a culinary purpose) and for so many reasons, I refuse to spray them with chemicals. I feel like people should forget about having the perfect green lawn and embrace the humble dandelion. What is so wrong with having a yard full of yellow flowers? Especially when you can eat them! I mean, isn't grass a weed when it comes down to it? And grass is a lot less pretty than yellow flowers, no? Plus, grass needs mowing and lots of care and attention, dandelions thrive when you ignore them. If I haven't given you enough reasons to go 'au naturel' in your lawn, the following recipes might sway you. Pleasantly bitter, garlicky dandelion pesto. It's delicious on salmon, pasta, stirred into a plain tomato sauce, spread on little toasted baguette rounds with a tomato slice, I could go on, but I'll let you use your imagination. And a nutty cup of roasted dandelion root tea sweetened with honey.
Dandelion roots have been used for medicinal purposes for a long time. So, when I was harvesting my greens for the pesto, I kept the roots too. I have to admit that pulling a dandelion out with the root intact is difficult, but even more rewarding than pulling a carrot out of the earth, and that's saying something! These ugly, white, slightly parsnipy looking roots are really good for you. They clean your liver and help with digestion. Plus, when roasted in the oven and infused into milk or water and sweetened with a little honey they make a lovely tea reminiscent of chicory and the Italian toasted orzo drink. That's to say, nutty, mildly bitter and round with a lovely dark colour, it is, dare I say a good, caffeine-free substitute for coffee (but then I'm not a coffee girl). To roast your dandelion roots, give them a good wash, then put them on a cookie sheet in a 325F oven, turning them over every 15 minutes or so for up to an hour. I found that I took some out earlier than others. The thin ones will get dark brown and toasty quite quickly, while the thicker ones will stay soft inside. You want them hard, crunchy and dark brown (see photo). When they're ready, cool them then grind them in a clean coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle until they are coarsely ground. Infuse a teaspoon or so per cup in hot water or milk, strain, sweeten to taste and enjoy!

Dandelion Green Pesto

8 c Dandelion Greens (make sure they come from somewhere that hasn't been sprayed with pesticides, like your own backyard)
2 Cloves Garlic
1 t Sea Salt
1 c Toasted Walnuts
Black Pepper
1 Lemon, Juice And Zest
⅓ c Olive Oil

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add 1/2 the washed dandelion greens to the pot, swirl with a pair of tongs and remove to a large bowl of ice water. Do the same thing with the remaining greens. Remove the greens from water and place in a colander. Squeeze the remaining water out of them and roll them in a clean kitchen towel. Place in the food processor with the remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, garlic and lemon if you think it needs more. It will depend on how bitter your greens are. Check the consistency too, if you like it runnier, add more olive oil or even a little water.
Use the pesto for pasta, salmon, chicken, toasts, tomato sauce, etc. I usually freeze a few portions in an ice cube tray, when frozen, remove and place in a
ziplock in the freezer. Then you have pesto to use whenever you need it!

Now, get out in your yard and pick some dandelions! Then decorate your dining room table with some humble little yellow flowers while you wow your guests with pasta and dandelion green pesto and a warm cup of roasted dandelion root tea with dessert.


Marilyn said...

Sounds yummy. We've just made dandelion mead here, but it won't be ready until September!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

What a wonderful way to use dandelion greens! Must try it. I feel eversomuch better about my dandelions now!

Ellinor Forje said...

I need to try this recipe for the next time I make pasta. Thanks for sharing and feel free to drop by me too, soon.

Todayschefspecial said...

Great post Kristin!

kristin said...


Lemon said...

This sounds so delicious; it's a great recipe idea.