Dandelions are just one spring green you can eat with a bean

All the essential elements of greens and beans.Out-of-the-Lawn Greens, with Beans

One way to get rid of dandelions is to eat them. Some people are busy right now, rooting them out of lawns and gardens, myself included. My mom used to dig a mess each spring, and boil them. On the grounds that they were supposed to be good for us, we ate them with butter, salt, and pepper, and I can’t truthfully say I liked it then. Another time-honored way to cook them is to heave in a chunk of salt pork with them, and let it simmer a good long while, but most of us can’t get away with that sort of thing anymore.

In fact, I can’t think of any traditional Maine dish that combines greens with beans, so the following comes from a Mediterranean source, and I have to say I like this a good deal better than the old Yankee way. I even offered it up to dinner guests recently, and they liked it a great deal, too.

Garlic and olive oil can make almost anything taste better. To the dandelions, I added spinach and scallions, which I wintered over in the garden. I let the dandelions account for about a quarter of the total amount of greens. I had some frozen arugula that I added, too. Finally I boiled white Cannellini beans, that I grew myself, until they were tender, though canned ones would work perfectly, too, and make for quick preparation. Actually, overall, this vegetable side dish is very speedy.

The rule I heard from old timers is, gather the dandelions before they bloom, or before May 10. I went after the ones that planted themselves in the vegetable garden, because that way I didn’t have to deal with grassy bits in them. Dandelions benefit from being soaked in water and rinsed thoroughly before using. I can’t say exactly why I think it is necessary, but I picked out any emerging buds. Something about bitterness perhaps.

The wok worked perfectly for sautéing the greens. They wilted right down, became tender, and did not collect a lot of liquid along the way. At the very end I tossed in the beans, whirled everything around a few times, flavored it with some rice vinegar, and it was good to go. Really tasty. Wholesome, too, though I am not a believer in eating food simply because it is good for you.

We hear a lot about the Mediterranean diet and how healthful it is, but in my kitchen, this Mediterranean dish had a lot of Maine in it.

Greens and Beans

2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1-2 large onions, chopped
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
One gallon-sized container of dandelions, washed and coarsely chopped
Two gallon-sized containers, or a large package, of spinach, torn up or coarsely chopped
One gallon container of some other greens (arugula, beet greens, chard, baby kale, collards, turnip greens, or even a lettuce mix) torn up or coarsely chopped
2 cups of cannellini beans, or white bean of your choice
Balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, or lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a wok or large heavy-bottomed cook pot. Add the onions and cook over a medium temperature until they begin to soften, then add the garlic. As soon as you can smell the garlic cooking, add the greens, raise the temperature to medium high, and cook and stir the greens until they are thoroughly wilted and tender. Add the beans, and mix them in. Add the vinegar or lemon juice to taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes four to six servings.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.