Smile Politely

Eat your yard: using dandelion greens in the home

One sunny spring day in 1993, my husband and I decided to elope. The only person we could find to marry us on short notice was an honorary Kentucky Colonel who married us in his trailer in Urbana. We always intended to jointly tell our parents who lived half a country away from each other. But when my mother came back to visit and was diagnosed with cancer, we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. So, we had a fake wedding, instead.

Being that it was a fake wedding, we set a budget of $2,500 for everything: dress, suit, flowers, photos, facilities, food, and alcohol. We opted to cater half the wedding ourselves and spent long evenings making and freezing tapas and mezes. But at 11:30 at night, no one wants to run to the grocery store to buy more spinach for spanakopita. So, we used what we had: dandelion greens and burdock that we picked from our yard by flashlight. As it turns out, this is how the people of Greece do it, the mixed wild greens part, not the flashlight part.


And since I have designated my new right of way garden off limits to dandelions — there are still plenty in the backyard — I made a mixed greens tart this week. Note that I did not make spanakopita, which should tell you something about catering your own wedding.

Dandelion greens have about twice as much vitamin A as spinach. Picked early in the spring when the leaves are small, they are slightly bitter like endive or chicory. The later in the season, the more bitter they become. Eat them in summer if you dare, but whatever you do, DO NOT use dandelions from a pesticide-treated yard. Thanks to well funded lobbying from the agricultural chemical industry, and the fact that we don’t operate under the precautionary principle, Americans are still allowed to use things on their yards, e.g.weed and feed products with atrazine, that other countries have banned as carcinogens linked to prostate and breast cancer.

But, fixing this would take more money than bailing out AIG. So, back to the tart. Rinse the dandelions greens thoroughly to remove any dirt. You will need to collect about 2 ½ cups. Try to find organic frozen spinach as spinach typically has higher pesticide residues. You can find local whole wheat pastry flour, and organic feta and local goat cheese at Common Ground Food Coop.

Dandelion and Spinach Tart

Tart Dough:

  • 1/3 c plus 1 T all purpose flour
  • 1/3 c plus 2 T whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 ½ T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Dash salt
  • 3 T plus 1 t ice water
  • additional all purpose flour for work table

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Add flours, salt, and butter to the bowl of a food processor. (Alternatively cut butter into flours and salt with two forks in a mixing bowl.) When mixture resembles coarse meal, add water. Stop mixing when dough begins to ball up. Remove dough from machine or bowl. Working gently, press dough into a smooth ball, and then into a 5-inch disk. Dust disk with flour and flour work table and rolling pin. Roll dough ¼ inch thick. Fit into an eight-inch tart or pie pan. Prick dough with fork. Line shell with parchment paper or foil. Fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove parchment and pie weights. Add filling.

Tart Filling:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • ½ large onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 ½ c baby dandelion greens
  • 10 oz frozen organic spinach, thawed and squeezed (save water for a smoothie)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled, or use aged goat cheese
  • ¼ t fresh ground pepper
  • ½ to 1 t dried oregano
  • Dash nutmeg
  • ½ t salt if desired (note: feta is more salty than goat cheese)

Heat a heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic. When onion begins to turn clear, add dandelion greens. When dandelion greens soften, add spinach and heat through. Remove from heat, allow mixture to cool. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl. Add cooled greens and stir. Stir in cheese and spices. Pour filling into shell. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until top just begins to brown. Remove from oven. Let tart cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

Note: If you aren’t up for making crust, pour the filling into a greased 8-inch pan and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes.

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