Clara’s Dandelion Salad

March 28, 2012

THIS MORNING, while researching dandelions, I found myself face to face with Clara Cannucciari — a 94-year-old woman who, in a series of webcasts, describes and prepares the food her family ate during the Great Depression. “The dandelion was a good meal to have during the depression because it was free and it’s good for you,” she says.  Watch this episode, and then tell me if you feel inspired to keep, not eliminate, the dandelions in your yard.

Of course, if you’ve used any chemicals on your lawn, you must not eat your dandelions. Why? Because they can make you sick.  But if your yard has been maintained organically,  as mine has, then your dandelions and other edible “weeds” (including purslane) are perfectly safe to consume.

Clara has made me see the dandelions in my yard in a brand new light. How about you?

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Got Weeds? Use Vinegar, not Round-up
Purslane: A Wondrous Weed
Heuvos con Verdolagas

Comments

  1. Yolanda says:

    Yes, I definitely see dandelions in a brand new light! And Clara is a national treasure! Thanks for posting this, Kevin.

  2. Yolanda – You’re welcome. Now go make a dandelion salad!

  3. Liz J says:

    Oh my gosh ~ what a gem. I’m still laughing over “a little salt”. I’ll have to try this. I was trying to find out if she is still alive. What an amazing woman!!! Sometimes you can really find very special stuff on the net ~ you certainly did. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Liz J says:

    Just found her last show in December ~ incredible. Yes Yolanda, she is a national treasure.

  5. Liz – She’s 96 now. How wonderful for her to have a big audience at this point in her life. Her grandson, Chris, was the filmmaker. What a great idea he had to record his grandmother’s memories.

  6. Lorraine says:

    This video made my day!

  7. Oriane says:

    I grew up in the Burgundy region of France and each spring the entire family would go harvest wild dandelions in the fields. This was a delicacy for us. My mother prepared them as a salad with hard boiled eggs and a Dijon mustard vinaigrette.
    It is best to harvest the dandelion when it is very young, the older the plant the more bitter it gets.
    A lot of nutrients in dandelions: Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese.
    Clara is right, it is good for you.

  8. Lorraine – So glad you enjoyed it.

    Oriane – I wonder if it is only in the U.S. that the dandelion is so ignored. Your mother’s salad sounds delightful, and I will try it. Thanks for the run-down on the nutrients the plant affords. Some weeds are really healthy — I know that purslane contains loads of Omega 3.

  9. Donna B. says:

    People like this affirm to me that knowledge of our natural world is not only better for you, but it will let you live longer! I hope even to make it to my forties! hehee!
    But you know, this is so utterly true it’s confusing why people don’t already eat easily obtainable natural things like this – but they’ll goto Whole Foods and purchase a bundle of dandelion leaves harvested from California for 5.99 a lbs. & won’t even think to use the ones they so desperately try to eradicate from their own yard using toxic solutions to kill them.
    It boggles the mind.
    In my backyard I’m trying to create a more established “lettuce” area, since the front yard get’s visitors of the hoofed kind. One of the greens I wanted to add to it are dandelions! Maybe make a soldier border using the dandelions and plant the lettuce within. I love how peppery they are! (And are great in an arugula/nasturtium/spinach salad! Mmm!)

  10. Yes, Donna B.! Create a special place for dandelions! If you snip off the flowers before they go to seed, they won’t spread.

  11. badger gardener says:

    I once read the following , but can’t remember the exact source although I remember it was Native American.
    The dandelion must truly love us. We do our best to mistreat it and banish it’s existence, all the while ignoring its precious gifts. And despite all, it arrives every Spring telling us again that the Earth will provide for us.

  12. Jani says:

    Wonderful, video made my day too! I love dandy’s cooked or as is in salad :) You go Clara, God keep BLessing you :)

  13. badger gardener – Beautiful! A precious gift, indeed.

    Jani – So glad you liked the video. I’ve fallen in love with Clara.

  14. Grannycan says:

    Thanks so much for this video. I have bought dandelion greens at the store, but when I tried them in the yard they were inedible. WAY too bitter…Now I know why! Thanks again.

  15. Paul says:

    Picking dandelions was regular spring chore for me growing up in Arlington, Washington. Mom would serve them with a vinaigrette dressing for a salad just as Clara does. I like them best mixed with lettuce and/or other greens. Be sure to trim them carefully or they will be bitter.

  16. jennifer says:

    I just love Clara, it is so sweet of her to share these times from the past. God Bless you Clara.

  17. Caroline says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Kevin. I’m going to watch the rest of her videos. What a treasure!

  18. peggy says:

    What a sweetheart she is! Dandelion salad on the way. Thanks Kevin – and Clara.

  19. Joann says:

    I remember my grandmother sending me out to dig dandelion and mustard greens when I was a very young. My mother would cook wild burdock, boiled and then dredged in flour and egg and fried in olive oil. So good. This lady has brought back many pleasant memories, thanks for sharing !!

  20. KimH says:

    I think there are still many in the US that eat wild plants, but I also think most of them are country folk.
    I used to go gather poke out in my moms pastures for my grandmother who thought a big bag of poke was the best present in world.
    We also used to help my husbands grandmother pick lamb’s quarters which are quite tasty.

    I keep saying Im going to eat my dandelions from my own yard, but I always wait till its too late. I’ll have to try to get em when they’re nice & young.

    badger gardener– loved your post.

  21. Lana says:

    I love Clara! I have her cookbook with all the depression-era recipes. Poor Man’s Meal is our favorite. Anyway, my Dad used to make wine from dandelions. Of course I was a kid so I never did taste it. I would caution anyone who wants to eat dandelion greens to make sure they are totally organic and no turf builder or pesticides have been applied to where you are getting them from. They also would make a great garnish.

  22. Hilary Seiler says:

    Clara is great! I am very proud of my dandelion crop. It’s the best one on my street.

  23. Leilani says:

    Loved it! I could sit and just listen to her tell stories and share recipes!

  24. Michelle says:

    Kevin,
    I love your blog and have been reading for quite awhile. Thank you for sharing Clara with us! My last grandparent (my grandmother) passed away in January and she used to tell me about living through the Depression and WWII as a young wife and mother. Lately, I’ve been researching recipes from that era to teach my kids what it was like back then. What a fantastic lady and what a special way for the film maker to preserve the memories of his grandmother! Clara reminds me of my grandparents…that generation has a lot of down to earth common sense that I really love! Thanks again!
    Michelle
    Kansas City

  25. Misty says:

    You made my day! Thanks so much for the delightful video and instructions on how to make Dandelion salad. By the way, I live on Dandelion lane in Apple Valley, CA. I have sooo many Dandelion’s in my backyard and was wondering what to do with them. Well, now I will start making use of them. Thanks again Clara and Kevin. Clara, you are a sweetheart to share your knowledge with everyone. Have a blessed day!

  26. LJ says:

    Hi Kevin, thanks for finding this for us!

    I was out in my front yard earlier harvesting! What a coincidence to find this! Did you know that dandelion, common (and English) plantain and chickory are not native to this continent? The Native Americans may have had a saying like the one above, but what it was called most traditionally was “white man’s footprint.”

    Around here where I live, we have workshops offered in one of our state parks that have transferred the old generations’ knowledge of skills such as these (we call them “primitive skills”) and infused them with up-to-date nutritional and scientific data, too.

    No doubt whatsoever that these wild edibles are fabulous for us; purslane was MK Gandhi’s favorite food, ha ha!

    A suggestion for those of you who find the taste of dandelion bitter… remember that the fancier mixed ‘mesclun’ greens that feature bold tastes like arugula, cresses, raddichio, etc are no less bitter. The bitterness is what is so healthy for our livers and bodies, as well as the vitamins and plant-based anti-oxidants. Therefore, add some fresh dandelion greens chopped in smaller bites and add to your regular greens salad mix, or chop a bunch like a fresh herb. You’d be astonished at how much vitamins A & C show up in even a half a cup!

    Well, I could go on and on, since edible “weeds” are one of my most beloved subjects, but I’ll stop here… but to echo another reply… go find Lamb’s Quarters! Incredible tasting, prolific, and a member of the chenopod family, that includes spinach, beets, and quinoa! YUMMY!

    and as Clara says… FREE!

  27. Dana says:

    Kevin,
    Thanks for sharing Clara! Dottie Higgins used to make Dandelion Salad and my Dad made wine from on old Czech recipe. Both are delicious.

    D.

  28. LJ – Right! Dandelions were brought to the New World by Europeans. Hence the Native American term “White man’s footprint” is certainly apt!

    You are right about the taste. Dandelion greens are no more bitter than cultivated, “high end” salad greens like arugula and raddichio. In my experience they are far less bitter than mustard greens.

    On your advice, I shall try Lamb’s Quarters. So glad I have a variety of weedy things in my lawn, thanks to my determined avoidance of the additives that Lana mentioned in comment #21 above.

  29. Betty says:

    When I was a child, we lived in So, Dak. and we lived 60 miles from the nearest grocery store. Our favorite time was in the spring when we had dandelion salads. Some dry the roots and grind them for a coffee like beverage. A number of years ago, my kids and I got out early and picked the fresh blossoms, making sure we did not leave any stem on them. I put them in cool, lightly salted water. Then a made a batter like I would prepare for onion rings, heated canola oil to 350 degrees and dipped each blossom in batter and then fried them. I had several guests and no one could tell me what they were eating. Everyone said it was mushrooms. We had picked a lot of blossoms, but they all disappeared and all wanted more. Not one person could believe what they had just eaten and really enjoyed!

  30. Annette says:

    What a wonderful video and a wonderful lady. This post came at a great time as I will be posting on my blog about making dandelion tea and using it in salads – she is truly a gem!

  31. Annette – I checked out your blog — what a good service you are performing. Let me know how the dandelion tea turns out. As for Clara – I’m in love with her!

    Betty – Thanks for the thumbs-up concerning fried dandelion blossoms. I plan to make them…soon!

  32. Cris says:

    Hi Kevin-
    Clara reminds me very much of Ruth Stout. I’m sure you must know of Ruth, but perhaps some of your readers would enjoy watching Ruth’s video on keeping gardening simple…kind of like the simple pleasure of dandelions!

    ruth_stouts_garden-1of2.avi
    ruth_stouts_garden-2of2.avi

    Hope you enjoy!
    Cris

  33. Cris – Unfortunately the links you sent did not work. But yes, I’m a big fan of the late, great Ruth Stout! I once had myself photographed while lounging in a wheelbarrow — ala one of Ruth’s book covers. I suspect she’d approve of my gardening method, because I like to apply very thick layers of mulch (usually composted leaves) in all my garden beds. Over the years the mulch has turned my awful soil into beautiful loam.

  34. Barb Gilligan says:

    http://www.misshomemade.com/dandeliongreensrecipe.html

    we used to make the recipe for the WILTED DANDELION GREENS
    It was my job to pick them sometimes. I had a special spot almost a mile away around the back side of our grove of trees on the farm. It is a plesant memory for me, I am 62.
    The site I am sharing has a lot of recipies that are old fashioned and yummy.
    God bless Clara for sharing.

  35. Cris says:

    Oops! Sorry.
    I’ll try again. If not, copying & pasting these links should bring you right to youtube. Hopefully these work:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt-KHUITId8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyEQS0v75mc

    Your photograph sounds great!

  36. Michelle says:

    One of the best salads I ever ate was @ the Olympia Hotel in Ft. Davis, TX…a dandelion leaf salad with Raspberry vinegerett……delicious! This is a great video find…Clara is a cutie! Love it…she reminds me of my Granny a lil bit. ;)

  37. Lynn says:

    Does she make dandelion wine? My grandmother used to make it, just wondering, anyone out there make it?

  38. Barb Gilligan – Thanks for the link.

    Cris – How I enjoyed watching these videos again! Youtube had removed them a couple of years ago due to copyright infringement. Glad to see them up again — although they will probably disappear soon! I read somewhere that whoever bought Ruth’s property in Connecticut un-did all of her gardens. What a crime!

    Michelle – Well, that is one savvy hotel!

    Lynn – Lana (comment #21) and Dana (#27) both had dads who made dandelion wine. Do you have your grandmother’s recipe?

  39. Cary Bradley says:

    What a jewel! National treasure is surely correct. Thanks so much Kevin for sharing this delight. Very much enjoyed reading all your readers comments too! Hint, do as I did and download the Ruth Stout videos so you have them on your computer. If they are removed from the web again, you’ve got them safely stored. I looooove watching them here in my cozy office.

    Speaking of Ruth :) , Kevin, please tell me why I can’t replant last year’s sprouted all blue potatoes? They are much better sprouted than the ones I bought at Agway for planting. I know we’re encouraged to buy certified seed potatoes, but really, how can I go wrong by planting these gorgeous spuds? The worry must be about disease wintering over, right? Don’t you think Clara would scoff at this worry? Tally ho!

  40. Cary – You can replant your homegrown potatoes. However, if there is even the slightest chance the tubers harbor a disease — say, the late-blight fungus — you will risk killing not only your entire potato crop, but your entire tomato crop, too. For this reason I never plant tubers left over from the previous season’s bounty. Instead, I always start with certified disease-free seed-potatoes. Better safe than sorry, right?

  41. Alice says:

    Hi all,

    Kevin,
    I’m from Australia, and people here also desparately try to erradicate dandelions, I was one of those people, till I saw this video. Thank you so much for sharing! Must try this salad some time, I wonder what my husband will think of it? ;)

  42. Alice – I tried dandelion greens on a sandwich the other night — and they were delicious! They were no more bitter than arugula.

  43. Terri says:

    I absolutely love this. The feeding programs that we sponsor are so simple and this is one of the best. The organic yards are not as hard to find as they used to be, maybe this can be reborn again. Probably already is among the traditional generation and some of the baby boomers.

  44. Deb Vaughn says:

    I’m trying to learn more about living off of the land now that I live on 50 acres in Missouri. I’ve been wanting to try the dandelions and was thrilled to find this video. Only problem, I think my husband put flea and tick repellent in the frontyard where the dandelions are. Wonder how long they have to go untreated before safe to eat? Anyone have any idea?

  45. Newbie Forager says:

    We used Roundup on our lawn last year to get rid of the dandelions. Now a year later the dandelions are back and I’ve discovered the benefits of eating dandelion greens.
    We live in a 5a zone and have been thru the midwest winter. Is it safe to eat them from our front yard ?

  46. Newbie Forager (love that name!) – Land which has been treated with chemical herbicides or pesticides is not considered organic until 3 years (at least) has passed. Consequently I’d wait 3 years before eating any of the dandelions in your yard. (In the meantime, of course, you must not use any chemicals on your lawn.)

  47. Donna says:

    I stumbled upon Clara a few years ago and I still love her. She doesn’t make videos anymore but thank God we can watch her previous ones.. She is a National Treasure and I’m really glad you came across her Kevin.. I suspect you two would have lot’s to talk about.
    You and Clara are some of the reasons I spend time on this computer… thanks for the company.

  48. Ellen says:

    Oh my… I loved this! I just love Clara! Thank you for sharing, Kevin!!

  49. Gretchen says:

    Thank you for introducing me to Clara. What a treasure she is! So nice to know that there are many others in this electronic world who freely recall and share their experiences of earlier days when using dandelions for food was normal and not the target of mindless overuse of herbicides.
    If anyone has the interest in reading about dandelions, Taraxacum officinalis, you’ll find at least 5 medicinal uses for this plant, plus the treasure of dandelion wine. In the spring it was my job to harvest the greens, in the summer the blossoms for wine and then in the fall the roots to be dried and used for medicinal tea. Books by Culpepper and John Lust were constantly used to check out nature’s store.
    Thanks for the wonderful trip down memory lane.

  50. Linda says:

    When I was a child we had to eat our share of dandelions. My grandmother also pulled some sort of white wild carrot from the ground for us to eat. She cooked them. And we ate chicken and corn fritters. We lived like the depression days. But it was in the 60′s.

  51. Linda says:

    Dandelions can be clipped off at the root leaving the root in the ground. This is they way it was done when I was a kid. And new leaves would sprout up from the root left in the ground. More for the next time.

  52. Huguette says:

    My mother pickled the dandelions flowers in a mixture of vinegar and water (in the US the vinegar is much weaker than the European vinegar) and it was eaten like pickles plus it was used as a lovely decoration on dishes. TY Kevin and all the readers who are sharing.

  53. Linda says:

    Good-morning, love your blog. I am from the Catskill mountains and have been eating dandelions for a long time. My mother always fixed the” mess of greens” like you would spinage or mustard greens, always with a slab of salt pork or bacon in the cooking pot, eaten with a sprinkle of vinegar. I don’t cook them myself as I had to eat them as a kid when times were lean, but I still put that vinegat on spinage. We also made wine with the dandelion flowers and still have the recipe somewhere . Have a wonderful spring day and soon the blossoms will cover the lawn with yellow.

  54. Marlene P says:

    Thanks for sharing! She is an inspiration!

  55. Helga G says:

    Hi Kevin.I’m glad I “stumbled across” your website and subscribed to it.You have some delicious recipes.Thank you for sharing them.
    Also I just bought Claras Book “Claras Kitchen” (Kindle Edition).Will try her Dandelion Salad.Did you know that Vineland,NJ is the Dandelion Capital of the World?
    I only live about 1 hours drive from there.Always wanted to go,but for some reason or other never get around to it.Love your gardens and house.

  56. Kristina says:

    How cute is Clara!? I love her little blue bowl and “just a little bit of salt”. Dandelions are amazing little flowers that got a bad rap. They should be honored for their abundance and detoxifying qualities. Thanks for sharing!

  57. in the spring the young top sprouts of nettles are delicious too.
    dip them in boiling water to get rid of the sting.
    or put them in the blender with hot brown beans to make a healthy soup. nettles have lots of healthy ingredients too.

  58. Trudi Dido says:

    LOVE CLARA , BUT I’VE NEVER MET AN ARMENIAN (MAN OR WOMAN)WHO WAS NOT CREEPED OUT BY WORMS! WHY ? WHAT DO THEY TEACH THOSE KIDS. THEY ALL GREW UP EATING WEEDS TO STAY ALIVE BUT WORMS- UGH..NO I’M NOT SAYING WE SHOULD EAT THEM ,JUST RESPECT WHAT THEY ADD TO THE EARTH AND BE GRATEFUL FOR THEM,(CLARA’S LAST NAME GIVES HER AWAY AS AN ARMENIAN) I’M MARRIED TO ONE ALSO– AND I LOVE WORMS!) BUT I’M SCOT-WELSH -CHEROKEE..

  59. Richard says:

    My grandmother and aunt and mom use to pick them and put vinegar on them.

  60. Terry says:

    What an inspiration! I had forgotten about eating dandelions, we use to do that as a kid and more recently when we lived in England. Will try again this summer. Usually used vinegar but think will try the lemon juice and olive oil instead. Thank you.

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