Stalking the dandelion for spring salad greens

Dandelions were one of the three most popular flowers planted by the colonists in their front-yard gardens, and their leaves were most prized for salads. Today with the cultivated variety available much of the year in large markets, more people appreciate their slightly bitter flavor as a green vegetable both raw and cooked.

It is a spring green for those who go forth with basket or pail and a knife for digging them, but if the season is not long enough there is a way to extend it by digging a few plants in the fall and planting them in boxes of garden soil.

These must be left outside to freeze, then they can go into a cellar in a dark place.A temperature of 50 to 55 degrees F. is ideal and they need to be watered. When tender white sprouts appear they are ready to pick.

If you really like dandelions, not just a blade or two in a salad, you might like them cooked in the old-fashioned manner -- in a large kettle with scored salt pork which flavors the greens. Dandelion Greens, New England Style 4 quarts freshly picked dandelion greens 1/4 pound fat salt pork 8 small potatoes Salt, optional

Wash and remove all grit from dandelions. Remove discolored or broken outer leaves but don't break plants apart. Wash three times in lukewarm water, sloshing the plants up and down so that dirt will settle before you lift them out.

In a large kettle bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. When it has reached a rolling boil, throw in the greens and add the salt pork cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cover the kettle and let the contents simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours.

During the last half hour add the potatoes, peeled but left whole. Do not add salt until dish is cooked for the salt pork usually adds enough flavor.

To serve, lift the greens, shaking off liquid, and lay them in a serving bowl. Place the potatoes on top and spoon out the salt pork for garnish. Serves 4.

Because of the slightly bitter flavor of the raw dandelion, you may want to use just the very tender leaves if you are making a salad, or better yet, combine them with other greens. Dandelion Salad Dandelion greens Watercress or garden cress Salad burnet Lemon balm Chives Pickled nasturtium seeds Olive oil Tarragon vinegar Salt and freshly ground pepper Garlic (optional)

Cut greens and herbs in size of your preference. Combine in salad bowl. Add a few nasturtium seeds. Add oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Add garlic, if desired.

It is like searching for a needle in a haystack to find a dandelion recipe without bacon, a popular addition. Here are some dishes, each quite different from the other with the exception of the bacon. Scalloped Dandelions 2 quarts dandelion greens 1 quart boiling water 1 bouillon cube 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 2 cups milk Salt and freshly ground pepper Buttered fresh crumbs Sliced bacon, cooked crisp

Thoroughly wash greens several times in lukewarm water. Drain. Dissolve bouillon cube in boiling water and add greens.Boil for 30 minutes. Drain greens and chop them. Melt butter. Add flour and stir and cook for a few minutes. Add milk and cook until sauce is thick and hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter a baking dish and place a layer of greens in it. Spoon sauce over them. Repeat until all greens and sauce are used, finishing with the sauce. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and crumble bacon on top. Bake in a 350 degrees F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 6.

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