By Alicia Ghio
Believe it or not, dandelions were not always considered a plague on suburban lawns. They were known for their medical qualities and used frequently in folk medicine. In fact, they are very nutritious, containing more protein per serving than spinach. They are also high in iron, fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin K. Dandelions support digestion and reduce swelling and inflammation.
The entire dandelion plant is edible, from flower to leaves to root. For this recipe, I focus on using just the greens. In this case, you want to select young leaves from a plant that has not yet gone to flower. Dandelions are slightly bitter and that bitterness increases once the plant goes to flower.
You can buy cultivated dandelion greens in many markets, but you can certainly forage for them out in nature yourself. Just please be conscious of the source. Be certain you are harvesting them from land that hasn’t been treated with pesticides, herbicides or other contaminants. Do not pick them from public trails, roadsides, urban waste lots or any chemically tainted area, including treated lawns. It’s also important to thoroughly wash dandelions you’ve harvested yourself. I suggest soaking for 10 minutes, rinsing and then repeating the cleaning process.
Now, let’s get cooking. This is my take on a Southern Italian classic called Ceci e Cicoria, translated as Chickpeas and Dandelions. This recipe is great as a light vegetarian main course served with a few pieces of fresh, crusty bread. It also makes a wonderful side dish for roast chicken.
(If you don’t have dandelion greens, you can use kale, Swiss chard or broccoli rabe as a substitute.)
Ceci e Cicoria
Serves 2 as a main course
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 bunch dandelion greens, roughly chopped
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Heat the coconut oil in large sauté pan.
- Add in the diced onion and cook until translucent.
- Season with the paprika. Cook, stirring around the pan, for 1-2 minutes.
- Toss in the chopped dandelion greens. Cook until just wilted.
- Add in the chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until heated through.
- Stir in toasted pine nuts and lemon zest.
- Remove from heat and serve immediately.