There is now plenty to do in the garden — planting, weeding, mulching, pest and disease control…but not much to harvest, yet. My rhubarb is busy sending out new leaves, but the stems are too slender to make more than a mouthful. My January radishes are just getting big enough to justify plucking them out of the ground, but a small radish or two doesn’t make much of a meal.
The weeds, however, could not be growing faster. I’m so glad I’ve got most of the yard sheet mulched now, but the tough and ubiquitous dandelions have no trouble punching their way up through the layers of cardboard and wood chip. Rather than curse these particular weeds, though, I can be grateful that nature has provided me with an earlier harvest than all of my own work has.
Since I never spray my yard or garden with chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, I can eat the darn weeds! And they can be quite delicious. If eaten before any flower buds appear, dandelion leaves will be sweet, but small. If eaten later, they will have a bitter taste, similar to endive, which I personally enjoy. (In Portland, we have two different kinds of dandelions — the kind with the big, edible leaves and short hollow stems, and the kind with short, tough leaves and long, wiry stems. Luckily, I’ve only seen the edible kind on my lot.)
This is the first way that I ever tried eating dandelion greens, and it’s still my favorite. I just added a little radish to this salad, but I had one the other day with fava bean shoots and beet greens — two more things that are available in my garden right now. Fava bean shoots taste like fava beans (yum). I also prefer beet greens to beet roots, so I don’t mind plucking out a whole fall-sown plant in the spring, but just a few leaves at a time can also be pinched off, instead, to let the root continue to grow.
Dandelion Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
- a couple of dandelion plants
- red radish
- 1/4 lb thickly sliced uncured bacon
- 1 small shallot
- 4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- freshly ground pepper
- artisanal bread
- goat cheese
Put the dandelion and radish in a cold water bath to clean. Shake them off and dry in a clean tea towel. Tear the dandelion leaves and radish greens into bite-sized pieces and thinly slice radish root to compose the salad.
Slice the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and fry in a cast iron skillet until golden brown, while finely dicing the shallot. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and turn off heat. Add shallot to bacon fat and caramelize. (This will happen quickly.) Add vinegar to pan and stir with wooden spoon to deglaze. Spoon warm dressing over the salad, top with bacon pieces, and grind pepper over.
Toast slices of bread and spread with goat cheese to serve with salad. Enjoy!