The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Dandelions and chicory for early spring greens

Blanching dandelion leavesWhen I pruned and mulched the berries a few weeks ago, I left the dandelions that had grown up in the row but threw a bunch of leaves on top of them.  My goal was to get sweet, blanched dandelion leaves with no work, and my experiment succeeded quite well.  Too bad there were only a couple of plants there to work with....  I had to round out my scavenging with plain old dandelions out of the yard to come up with enough greens to slip into our early spring, all-from-the-garden omelet.

Although you probably think I'm nuts, I hunted high and low for named-variety dandelion seeds and ended up settling for chicory (aka Italian Dandelion).  Since they're perennials, both chicory and dandelions will feed you greens long before any unprotected annual is regularly putting out leaves, and this is the time of year when I'm willing to put up with a bit of bitterness to get fresh food.  Eric Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables noted that some Bowl of dandelion greenschicory varieties are perennials while others are annuals, and I couldn't find any specifically labelled "perennial" during my seed hunt, so I eventually settled upon Catalogna Special and Red Rib from Johnny's.  I'm trying out both varieties, along with lovage, in the forest garden and will hope that at least some of them become a self-maintaining perennial addition to our garden.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Endive planted in the fall will give you another choice all winter long.
Comment by Errol Sat Mar 5 08:41:16 2011
Endive is pretty bitter as a salad green for our palates. Can you eat it as a cooked green?
Comment by anna Sat Mar 5 21:44:03 2011
Sure you can wilt it. But it's not as strong as arugula. I like it with a vinegary dressing.
Comment by Errol Sat Mar 5 21:47:20 2011
You can absolutely eat it as a cooked green - blanch it to remove the bitterness, then saute or use in soups or casseroles. My grandmother used to wilt it with a hot dressing, like wilted spinach salad, and that was quite good too. :)
Comment by Ikwig Sat Mar 5 22:20:03 2011
My friend from Morocco says her father raised it in the cellar without light to blanch it and give it a mild taste.
Comment by Errol Sun Mar 6 09:25:16 2011

Daddy --- it's a very different strong taste from arugula, though. Arugula is almost skunky while endive is bitter. I like the former, but not the latter. :-)

Ikwig --- Good ideas!

Comment by anna Sun Mar 6 09:36:51 2011

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