Dandelion Pie

000_0525I had hoped to be supping on chard by this weekend, but even that hardy perennial is still too meager to make more than a homely garnish. However, the dandelions have begun to sprout here and there, so I had in mind that I would feed myself and accomplish some weed control all at once. But when I tried removing the first couple of plants whole, I got more mud than leaves, and still left the tips of the taproots in the ground. So I gave up any plans of eradication and just took the part I wanted to consume.

In Stalking the Wild Asparagus, master forager Euell Gibbons gives a number of treatments for the dandelion plant, starting with those fierce roots which, when boiled, “furnish a better vegetable than either parsnips or salsify, although it tastes very little like either of them.” These same roots, when carefully roasted, provide what Gibbons considers to be “the finest coffee substitute to be found in the wild.” He also offers a method for dandelion crown salad, a treatment for the embryonic blossoms, advice on cooking the greens, and instructions for dandelion wine which, according to a “drinking uncle,” will bring summer right into the house, even during the worst blizzard in January.

I enjoy reading about these austere and resourceful ways with the plant, but I had something else in mind. To start, I cut a medium-sized potato into half-inch cubes and sliced a small onion thinly. These went into a small pot of cold salted water. As I waited for it to come to a boil, I washed and picked over about a cup (packed) of new dandelion leaves.

Once the potatoes were tender, I drained that mixture and combined with the greens and a handful of last summer’s dried tomatoes. The vegetables went into a pie pan, to be covered with five eggs, which had been beaten with a hill of grated hard cheese and a few grinds of pepper. Then more cheese for the top, and baked until done. Delicious.

While I was out gathering the weeds, a small group had assembled for a burial in the little cemetery across the street. I tried to stay out of their line of sight, partly out of respect for their somber task, and partly because I recognize that my earnest attempts at a hardscrabble countrified foodways are somewhat ridiculous, the conceit of a city girl who has read too many essays extolling the simple life and who has too much time on her hands. Some of my neighbors still cultivate a small vegetable garden, but many feel they get a better value for their scarce time and money in the aisles of Wal-Mart these days. 

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