Last week, I mentioned dandelion greens are a great “cut and come again” wild crop, allowing multiple harvests from one plant in a season. This week, I’m sharing my favorite way to eat dandelion leaves, and literally the only way my kids will even touch them: dandelion chips!
By now, everyone has heard of kale chips. This recipe takes the same approach to dandelions. Choose the largest, flattest leaves to maximize surface area exposed to oil.
When I first experimented with eating dandelions several years ago, I tried many techniques to make the bitter greens more palatable to my family. If you’ve been reading this blog that long, you might recall I planned to write an entire ebook of dandelion recipes!) Various approaches seemed to help, like soaking the greens in cold water, or parboiling them before cooking them – although not for nearly as long as you would for pokeweed.
When you harvest the leaves matters as well, and where. Earlier in the spring – before they flower – the newly emerged leaves will be most tender and mildest flavored. But they also tend to be small, and barely worth the effort to forage. As the year progresses, the leaves get bigger but become stiff and more bitter. This can be offset by a good location. The ideal location is surrounded by other weeds or long grass, so the leaves are forced to grow as large as possible to compete for sunlight. But you still have to harvest them before they get tough and unpleasant.
Orrrrrrrrr you cut the first round of leaves, and wait for the new ones to regrow and harvest then.
However you go about choosing and harvesting the dandelion greens, your best bet is to chose recipes that complement the bold, sometimes bitter flavor of the vegetable, rather than trying to mute, subdue, or otherwise camouflage it. This dandelion chip recipe does exactly that.
Dandelion leaves can keep for at least a week in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic with a damp paper towel to help keep the humidity levels high. The leaves will store even longer if you pull up some of the root as well, but it will take longer for the plant to recover with this sort of treatment. (On the other hand, then you have dandelion root to eat as a vegetable or dry for a tea that tastes somewhat like coffee.)
Wash and dry the leaves thoroughly so they bake instead of steaming in the oven. If the leaves wilted too much while in storage, allow them to soak at least half an hour in cold water to see if they perk back up.
In a large bowl, toss the leaves with just enough olive oil to coat them lightly. Alternatively, if you have a pump spray bottle for olive oil, mist the leaves lightly on each side. Do NOT skip the oil for a “healthier”, lower-fat version. The oil allows seasonings to cling to the leaves, improving the chips’ flavor. Additionally, healthy fats like olive oil allow your body to absorb more of the nutrients in the dandelions, such as vitamins A and K.
How much oil to use? This depends on how many leaves you plan to cook, so I cannot give you a hard-and-fast rule.
Arrange the oiled leaves on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, with just a little space between. Depending on the size of your leaves, it may take multiple batches to cook them all! Sprinkle with sea salt and any other seasonings you might like. My favorite is Cajun blend; other options include Old Bay or garlic and herb. Bold flavors work best.
How much seasoning to use? It all depends on your (and your family’s) preferences! I might’ve gone a little overboard with the Cajun seasoning on mine.
Bake the leaves for 10 – 15 minutes at 350 F. They will shrivel unattractively, while simultaneously becoming airy and crisp.
What they lack in looks they more than make up for in addictiveness. I only made two trays, and all the chips vanished over the course of an hour or so. Even the pickiest eater in my household consumed several.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy the healthy – and free! – benefits of dandelion leaves? What else are your foraging this week?