Eat the dandelions before they bloom

If you have dandelious in your garden the time to cut them is early spring when they first appear and before the bud develops. Young leaves can be cut from one to three times before the real bitter taste is noticeable.

If you have none in your garden or neighboring fields, you will find them in many markets this year and chances are they are from New Jersey.

Vineland in this state is known as the dandelion capital of the country because more is grown here as a salad green than anywhere else. An annual dandelion festival is held in Vineland to celebrate the season.

The dandeloin crop is excellent this year, according to Mary Anne Guender, food information specialist for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Here is one of her recipes. Dandelion Quiche 1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked 6 eggs, beaten 1 cup fresh dandelion greens 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp cheese 1 cup milk 1 tablespoon instant minced onion 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Brush pie shell with small amount of beaten eggs. Pierce bottom and sides with tines of fork. If using a metal pie pan, bake shell in preheated 450 degree F. oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes. If using pie plate, bake shell at 425 degrees F. Cool on wire rack. Reduce oven temperature 25 degrees F.

In medium saucepan over medium heat, steam dandelion in about 1 inch of water until just crisp-tender. Drain well. Chop into bite-size pieces.

Distribute evenly in pie shell the dandelion and cheese. Beat eggs and all remaining ingredients together with a wire whisk until well blended. Pour into pie shell.

Bake in preheated oven until knife inserted halfway between center and outside edge comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

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