The other day while shopping for groceries, I came across red dandelions. It sparked my memory as I vaguely remember my mother mentioning that her friend cooked dandelions. It was shocking to me at the time because in my world, dandelions are weeds. However, if the flower is ripe, the dandelion can be quite fun for kids, since you can pluck off the flower and blow away the perfect sphere of parachute seeds. As the memory faded away, I stared again at these red dandelions in front of me. I have never seen the leaves this big in the wild, then again I have never seen this species. My skepticism at the edibility of this weed subsided for the moment, since it was sitting inside a credible supermarket with heavy foot traffic. I picked up a few bundles, looked for the freshest ones, and proceeded to checkout.
Once home, I conducted a few searches on Google to see how the dandelion connoisseurs go about preparing and cooking them. There was much variation, from pastas, to salads, to dandelions with cheese or squid. One item was clear though; across the board the verdict was that this green was bitter. Each leaflet, stem included, was between a 12 and 18 inches in length. As shown here, each leaf differs immensely, Each leaf though has a helmet shaped top, proceeded by symmetrical “shark fin” acute triangles running down. There were leaves that had 4 sets of these triangles and some had 2. Running up the red ridges of the stem were tiny fibrous hairs, but more sparse than the Shepherd’s Purse.
I placed the red dandelions in a tub of water and washed them thoroughly 4 times. Baby aphids in the water indicated that the produce was either organic or the pesticide was not effective. I chopped up 2 cloves of garlic, dropped 2 teaspoons of corn oil into the pan and simmered till the garlic turned yellow. Afterwards i carefully placed the greens in the pan and stir fried for 1.5 minutes, making sure that the stems spent the most time touching the pan.
Texture: The stems/stalks were very chewy and since it ran the length of the entire leaf, I’d say this green was more stalk than leaf. It would not make sense to just remove the shark-fin triangle shaped greens though since that strips the red dandelion of its character. Perhaps this bundle was a bit overgrown, hence the reason for why it was so gnarly.
Taste: The reviews online had prepared me for the bitterness of the red dandelion, yet it was not enough. If you have eaten bitter melon and could handle it, well this is a whole different monster. When you eat a bitter melon, the soft texture allows you to swallow it without having to chew too much. This works well with eggs and beef because it juice sensed by the taste buds is not overwhelming. HOWEVER, because the red dandelion was so gnarly, each time I chewed, my salivary glands secreted more saliva, hence enriching the bitterness more. It was a vicious cycle because I knew that I would not be able to swallow if I didn’t chew it enough. What was supposed to be a pleasant surprise quickly changed into an unpleasant challenge. I told myself that I must finish this plate of red dandelions. With the help of milk and fried rice, I was able to consume the rest of it. I’ll let my digestive tract handle the rest. I cannot believe how bitter it was; I’d rate it 10 times as bitter as a bitter melon. The sole reason is that it exists in your mouth for so long.
Conclusion: I’d definitely have to pair with at least another ingredient, or use it sparingly in a dish. One should be forewarned that this vegetable is only for the most adventurous. If you have some radical ideas on how to cook this, let me know in the comments below!
Red dandelion 1 : Homeyeats 0