Spring is just starting to arrive in Central Pennsylvania and one treat that local folk look forward to around the time of Easter dinners is dandelion salad. Early dandelion leaves are picked by the pound and softened with a hot bacon salad dressing and usually served with baked ham. Members of local fire departments and churches cook great batches of food for anyone happening to see their signs on the road and for the locals who look forward to these annual dinner events.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try a dandelion salad this spring. The familiar dandelion is found just about everywhere and is easily recognized by its basal rosette of toothed, deeply cleft leaves and bright yellow flower head.
It’s a little early to harvest much dandelion now, but while you’re sprucing up your gardens take a look around and scout out some dandelions that look promising. Make sure to pick dandelions from areas that are not sprayed with pesticides or weed killers.
Pick the young leaves and the flower buds for the least bitter taste. After dandelions flower most think the taste is strongly bitter, so young early spring leaves are preferred. Toss the stems and unused greens into your compost heap.
Cut the washed leaves into half-inch wide strips and leave out the stems of the larger leaves. Instead of using bacon or ham drippings to prepare the dressing, try canola oil or olive oil as a healthy alternative. Unsaturated fats in canola and olive oils are much preferred over the saturated animal fats in the bacon and ham. An added bonus is that the lighter plant oils will let other flavors come through, so you get to taste more ingredients than the heavy bacon-ham dressing.