If you have an unruly lawn like mine, you can weed and feed at the same time. I get pretty excited in early spring when bittercress, violets, dandelions, chicory and red-veined sorrel appear everywhere in our yard, long before we plant spring greens. Our in-lawn gardens are organic and we don’t use chemicals on our grass, so apart from the areas adjacent to the street, our edible greens and flowers are safe. For the pantry, we make dandelion jelly and violet jelly, and violet syrup and violet vinegar, which are posted elsewhere on this site. For the table, we make wilted or braised dandelion leaves as a side dish, a mixture of greens and violet flowers as a salad, and dandelion risottowith either rice or barley. When harvesting dandelion leaves, look for young ones that grow in the shade and harvest them just before they flower when the leaves are tender. Wash them well. When I add them to risotto, I parboil them first to soften them. The flowers are edible too. Just pluck the yellow petals from the bracts to add to the risotto or use as a garnish.
Risotto with Dandelion Leaves and Flowers
1 small onion, finely chopped
Butter (or olive oil)
¾ c Arborio rice or pearled barley
¼ c white wine
4 c chicken stock or vegetable broth, warmed
Optional: pinch of saffron or turmeric
A handful or two of dandelion greens
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Garnish: a few dandelion flowers, yellow petals plucked from the green bract
In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, lightly sauté the onion in a little butter or olive oil until soft. Add the rice or barley and stir to coat the grains. Add the wine and cook until the wine is evaporated. Start adding the stock, about ¼ c at a time, regulating the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer. (If using saffron or turmeric, dissolve in a little warm broth and add at the end.) The risotto should cook in 25-30 minutes, although the barley version takes somewhat longer. About 10 minutes before the end, you will add dandelion greens cooked as described above. Add the Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serves 4 as a side dish and 2 as a main course