Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dandy Dandelions

I've been a bad blogger. I'd like to tell you it's because I've been carefreely picking daisies, ur dandelions, (which I have) but that's only a tiny slice of how I've been spending my time these past few weeks. While I suppose to some, spring brings idyllic pastoral scenes to mind including fluffy, cutesy-wutsey baby animals like bunnies and chicks, I think spring is more a sign a chaos. I have just endured completing my own finals, submitting my graduate thesis, grading hundreds of pages of my students' finals, training for a new job, preparing for and attending commencement, moving out of my office at school, and enjoying a long visit from my mom and sister.

Here in Boise, even the weather seems to be thrown in tumult. After a weekend of 90 degree swelter, today was cloudy, breezy, and I am freezing.

The good news is that this cloudy, breezy, authentically spring weather has revived the beautiful patch of dandelions growing in my alleyway. Before the festivities of graduation and house guests, I had been playing around with dandelions. It is amazing how once you begin to view dandelions as a delicious food source, their presence in your yard transcends to pleasantness and not annoyance. Of course, the neighbors' yards all have the perfectly manicured (and chemically artificial) look of wall-to-wall shag carpeting. I'm sure they cringe when they see our yellow and white puffball dotted yard. But, they haven't tasted these:Dandelion fritters will change the way you look at the misunderstood dandelion forever. The flowers taste, well, like sunshine. As they fry, the little petals meld into a rich, not-quite-earthy, slightly sweet polleny center, which is perfectly contrasted by the crunchy fried batter that encases them.

I adapted this recipe from Kimberly Gallagher at Learning Herbs. (Dandelions are also incredibly healthy for you--although deep frying them probably cancels out any nutritious benefit.) If you're interested in knowing exactly how good-for-you dandelions are, check out the Learning Herbs site.

Dandelion Fritters

dandelion heads, as many blooming, freshly picked flowers as you want
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 t. salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup peanut oil

In a medium bowl, beat egg. Add milk, salt, flour and mix well. Heat peanut oil in a skillet on medium-high. One at a time, grab the dandelion heads by their green base and dip them in the batter. Then, gently place in hot oil. Keep adding batter-dipped dandelions. (If I work quickly, I usually have time to add about 8 or 10 before I need to start turning them.) As soon as they are brown on one side, turn and fry for another couple of minutes. Remove immediately to a paper towel covered plate. Repeat process as necessary. Serve either as a savory side with ketchup and mustard or as a dessert, heavily dusted with powdered sugar.

Dandelion fritters are a perfectly sunshiny dessert. They can (and in fact should) be made on the spur of the moment whenever lovely bright, golden dandelion flowers present the opportunity. If it's too cloudy out, the blossoms won't open, and your fritters won't be worth it. Although some cringe at the thought of eating a weed or worry about lawn chemicals, eating dandelions is delicious and safe. I know that no chemicals or fertilizer has been sprayed in my yard for two years. Even if you don't know the chemical history of your foraging area, if dandelions are growing, the area is free of pesticides. In fact, in researching the safeness and edibility of dandelions, I found that most wild plant foragers won't gather anything unless there are dandelions growing in the area. So, think of dandelions as the proverbial canary in the coal mine as far as eating wild plants goes.


Jodi said...

I'm absolutely going to try this; I might have to hunt through the several parks by my house, and/or raid the neighbors yards in the dead of night, but alas, it shall happen!

Reminds me a bit of fried green tomatoes; but I imagine the dandelions will be a bit more sun-shiny.

We ate at Andrai's tonight for our 8th anniversary dinner; delicious.

I'd like to hear more about peasant foods...


Anonymous said...

These sound very interesting. I would love to try them. I don't know if I am that ambitous though. I wish we would have had time to make them when I was in Boise. Without a doubt now when I see my dandelions in my lawn I will think of you and your fritters! Mom

Renee and Jana said...

Those dandylion fritters look and sound amazing! You put my slice and bake cookie dough dessert to shame.

I totally want to do a yard sale. I have so much crap, and it would be nice to get a little money out of it. If you're up for it, maybe we could do one together! And get Zan involved. I'm sure there are lots of grad students desperate to clean out their overstuffed apartments. I need to get rid of everything that won't fit in a single moving van and Toyota sedan.

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

Wow. amazing. it would NOT have occurred to me. Although I suppose there are some concerns that you be sure to pick ones that havent been treated with pesticides.

The leaves are also tasty, although some people find them too bitter. I made a sort of bruschetta with roasted beets and dandelion leaves that was delish.

By the way, because of your English and food focus, you might want to consider looking up some of the food blog events that feature food cooked based on meals described in literature. I know there are several out there.

Have fun in chicago!

Diane said...

I can always count on you to make food out of something that most people consider a weed. So, the Weekly reviewed the new Hawaiian restaurant this week. I gave up on trusting their reviews long ago, so I thought I'd see if you'd eaten there yet?

Jennifer said...

Dandelions are also considered a great plant for increasing breastmilk. So if anyone finds themselves needing a boost, just head outside.