Sorry for the click bait, but I couldn’t resist the 4/20 pun.
Cooking with weeds is incredibly sustainable, if you know what you’re doing.
I’m no forager, but after spending the afternoon at Edible Schoolyard’s amazing site in Gravesend, Brooklyn, I’m a pretty crazy about pulling up weeds. The lovely garden manager Merim shared that many weeds are edible, and she encouraged us to take home some of the garden’s less favorable vegetation, should we find any among the vegetable beds.
Before eating any old thing you pull up, make sure you’re with someone who is experienced in identifying plants. Some plants can be poisonous. Don’t be stupid. Inedible weeds go to the garbage, greenwaste bin, or to chickens. They were so happy with us. Look at the pile of green.
Alice Waters, the founder of Edible Schoolyard, is a big fan of dandelion greens, as well as chickweed and borage leaves, which she uses frequently in The Art of Simple Food II. And dandelions, perhaps the most approachable of garden weeds, contain five more times vitamin K than spinach. Early in the season, between March and April, they taste a bit like lemon peel. Citrusy, but bitter.
I couldn’t help bag up a few piles of dandelion to test them out at home.
If you’re pulling them up from your home garden, make sure to pull them out by the roots. Dandelions are an invasive species, which means they spread feverishly wherever they are and steal precious nutrients from other nearby plants. You don’t want these guys to take over your whole garden.
I loosen up mine with a flat shovel, but you could definitely do it with a small garden trowel, or even your hands if the ground isn’t very compacted.
Before cooking, be sure to separate the little leaves from the roots. (I just plucked them off.) To get the dirt off, I soaked my freshly picked dandelions in a big bowl of cold water with a cap of white vinegar for about 10 minutes. Mine didn’t feel gritty at all.
After they’re all cleaned you have a variety of choices. A hearty salad can be nice. You can cook them up with some smoky bacon. Or you could do what Merim advised, which is to sauté the greens with anchovies and garlic and serve them over pasta. I was smitten with the idea.
Dandelion Pasta with Anchovies and Garlic
Recipe from Ashley Mason
Serves 2 to 4
¼ cup olive oil
½ onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 anchovy filets, packed in oil
2 Italian sausages, casing removed (optional)
4-6 cups dandelion greens, washed
1 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 package of pasta
Salt and pepper
Fill a large pot with water and salt. When the water is boiling, add in pasta. Follow cooking instructions. Reserve half a cup of pasta water. Drain the rest and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add onions, garlic, and anchovies. Sauté until soft. Brown sausage in the oil, making sure it’s crumbly. Add pasta water.
Over low heat, add dandelion greens. Cover the greens with the oil and pasta water mixture until the greens are wilted but not mushy.
Pour cooked pasta over the greens mixture. Add a little pepper and grated cheese. Mix together until greens are well incorporated with the pasta.
Serve with chopped parsley, more grated cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil.