A Free Vegetable

by Pat Mestern

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It is that time of the year again. I am harvesting a favourite free vegetable. It has more beta-carotene per gram than carrots. It is rich in fibre, potassium, ron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. The weed is a source of boron, copper, cobalt, zinc and vitamin D. It has festivals devoted to it, cookbooks written about it. It can be eaten raw, made into wine and jelly, eaten in any dish that calls for spinach or cooked by itself as a tasty side dish. It has good diuretic and tonic qualities. Grandmother made the most potent wine and claimed that it fought liver disease, cleansed her blood and lowered her blood pressure. I think she just used the claims as an excuse to have a wee tipple every once in awhile. Recent studies do point to a reduction of serum cholesterol if this plant is eaten.

What is this miracle plant? The humble dandelion. As long as they have not been sprayed, dandelions are an excellent food, although they are a required taste. We eat the bitter leaves in salads, lasagna, jelly. The part of very young plants that "bud" at ground level (cut just below and just above ground level) make a good early "asparagus". I like using plants that grow in the shade as they provide sweeter and longer leaves. I cultivate a few plants in the garden and we eat dandelions all summer, although the leaves are more bitter than first-of-season greens.

Cooking? Wash, cook with a little water until just limp, drain and top with a favourite dressing. Warm bacon and vinegar dressing is a Canadian favourite. Chop leaves into a lettuce salad. Substitute in any dish that calls for chopped spinach. Jelly? Use any recipe for mint jelly, substituting dandelion leaves chopped fine. The plant is there for the taking and only requires your imagination for usage.

Periodically Pat Mestern provides us with frugal living tips from a Canadian perspective. You'll find some of her other musings at patmestern.com.

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