This is part of a series where we discuss a special ingredient and how it can be used in the kitchen.
When I was in grammar school, I had a friend who would always point to the bright yellow dandelions that littered our schoolyard and insist that they were edible and that I should to try one. I, of course, always refused and assumed she was just playing a mean trick on me. I thought dandelion wine and dandelion salads were as made-up a food as the mud pies my friend and I would make at recess. Although I still don’t sample random foliage from my garden (or listen to friends who tell me to eat strange things), I have since learned that my friend was on to something. Dandelions have been consumed all over the world for centuries, both for medicinal purposes and for sustenance, and they’re actually one of the most nutritious plants in your garden.
Dandelions are part of the Asteraceae family of plants, the same family as the sunflower, but its reputation as a tenacious weed hasn’t really won the plant many fans. If people only knew how healthy dandelion greens are, they might stop spraying them with weed killer and instead celebrate when they see them budding in their garden. Dandelions are rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin A, iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium and have been used as a folk remedy for centuries. It’s been used to treat liver problems, lower blood sugar levels, aid in digestion, treat infections, and some claim it can even be used to treat cancer!
Ok, so dandelions provide a lot of health benefits, but you’re probably wondering how they taste. Dandelion greens are usually eaten as a salad green and are quite bitter, which is probably why they’re not a regular addition to your spring salad mix or green smoothie. The bitterness can be lessened by cooking the greens in fat or blanching in boiling water, but many enjoy the raw salad greens as they are. Dandelion roots are also edible and are typically used for teas, tonics, and as a coffee substitute because of its roasted, bitter taste (sans the caffeine, unfortunately). The flowers are probably the sweetest part of the plant and are used to make teas, jams, and wine.
I wasn’t brave enough to harvest my own dandelion greens to make this dandelion green quiche, so instead I got mine at the farmer’s market. The grocery store variety of dandelion greens is an Italian chicory that differs slightly from the kind you might find in your garden. Both are edible, but the store-bought variety is bigger with a milder taste. I’ll admit that the bacon and cheese in this quiche may take away from some of the nutritional benefits of dandelion greens, but consider it your introduction to this nutritious spring green.
Dandelion Green Quiche (Yield: 2 nine-inch quiches)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ onion, chopped
3 cups dandelion greens, roughly chopped
3 cup spinach, roughly chopped
½ cup mushrooms, sliced
5 bacon strips
3/4 cup milk
¾ cup cheese, grated (Swiss or Gruyere)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
>For pie crust:
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, cold
5 tablespoons ice water
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two 9-inch pie tins.
- Mix together the flour and salt, then cut into the chilled butter until it forms a coarse mixture. Gradually mix in the ice water one tablespoon at a time. Mix until you can form a ball with the dough.
- Roll out the dough until it is 1 centimeter thickness. Place the dough over the pie tin and allow to settle into the tin. Cut the dough 1 inch from the edge of the tin. Roll the extra dough under the edge of the pie tin and form a flute edge. Line with wax paper and arrange pie weights inside (If you don’t have pie weights, you can use rice or an oven-safe plate so that crust does not bubble up and rise). Bake for 13 minutes with pie weights, then remove pie weights and wax paper and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Fry bacon until crispy, then coarsely chop. Reserve the bacon grease.
- Before chopping the dandelion greens, blanche the leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Saute garlic and onions in a tablespoon of bacon grease until onions become translucent. Add dandelion greens and spinach. Cook until wilted, then season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, and thyme.
- Arrange the bacon and vegetables in an even layer in the cooled pie crust. Top with the grated cheese, then pour the egg mixture over the entire quiche, making sure that it doesn’t overflow.
- Bake the quiche for 25 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 10 minutes. When the center is thoroughly cooked, remove from the oven and serve hot or cold.