Dandelion, “Taraxacum Officinale”
“Piscialetto” – “Piss-in-bed”

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Dandelion is a very common perennial and healing flowering plant that can be found anywhere in lawns and can be picked any time along the year. More often it is considered an annoying weed and, unfortunately, treated as such.

It blooms from April to May. It can be easy recognised by its serrated leaves and the tubular hollow stems which hold the yellow composite flower head that swells up in a feathery dome when ripe. This peculiarity belongs to both the types which can be found in our fields: “taraxacum officinale” and “taraxacum erythrospermum”, both of which are edible.

Its taste is slightly bitter, and it is highly appreciated both as an addition to a fresh salad in spring and cooked in butter and onions through the rest of the year, as well as a stuffing or a side for roasted meats. But the dish that really deserves an honourable mention, in my personal opinion, is the dandelion salad with fried pancetta cubes, hot red vinegar and a hint of garlic: it’s a match made in heaven.

“Dent de Lion”, “Lion’s Tooth”: this is what “dandelion” means. It most probably comes from its jagged shaped foliage. But the beauty of dandelion is hidden in its posh botanical name. The word “taraxacus” first appears in the 9th century and, apparently, it comes from the Arabic name of chicory: “tarahsaqun”. But it is also believed that its roots go back to the ancient Greek words “tarasso” – which can either mean “healing remedy” and “disorder”, two sides of the same coin – and “tarasseo” which means “I heal”. This would say it all.

The ancient popular wisdom considered them a God-send. Dandelion is commonly known for its diuretic properties – hence the vernacular name of “Piscialetto”, or “Piss-in-bed” in English – and for its power of improving digestion and bringing it back to regularity by stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes. What most people do not know, is that it has more beta-carotene than carrots themselves, more iron than spinach and quite an impressive string of minerals and vitamins like potassium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium, vitamin A, B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, D, and P.

The whole plant can be used as a remedy helping diabetes, chronic hepatitis, rheumatism, gout, chronic eczema and other skin problems.

It’s a pharmacy in a bowl!

This time I decided to save the dandelion I picked while walking for future use, so I simply blanched it and stored it in my freezer. Here you can find the instructions to do this, preserving its properties as much and as long as possible. Just one last hint: pick the whole plant, so it will be easier to clean the foliage from undesired grass blades and gross dirt. Use a knife and run the blade underneath the base, so each leaf will stick to the end of its root

Note for the users: please click on the label “HOW TO” to watch the slide-show of each cooking step.

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Ingredients

  • Dandelion - (whole plants picked cutting the bottom end at the start of its root)

  • Fresh running water

  • Fresh cold water

  • Boling water

  • Sterilising fluid for food - (use according to instructions)

  • Utensils

  • One paring knife

  • One chef knife (optional)

  • One chopping board

  • Two large bowls (or one large bowl and the kitchen sink)

  • One large saucepan

  • One skimmer

  • One medium bowl

  • One strainer

Instructions

  • 1.
    Chopping off the roots

    • Dandelion - (whole plants picked running a knife’s blade underneath the base)
    • Fresh running water

    • One paring knife

      Having picked whole plants, it will be easy to go through a first quick cleansing. Shake off any residual soil attached to the roots and eliminate any other possible dirt. Then, with a paring knife, clean the roots as much as possible. Hold the plant upside down and wash them one by one under running water, going through its leaves with your fingers.

  • 2.
    Washing the leaves

    • Dandelion leaves
    • Cold water
    • Sterilising fluid for food - (use according to instructions)
    • Boiling water

    • Two large bowls (or one large bowl and the kitchen sink)
    • One large saucepan

      Clean the sink, fill it with fresh clean water and add the sterilising fluid according to itsinstructions.
      Chop off each end and bathe the leaves into the sink’s water. Let them rest for about 15 minutes or as much as the instructions say to be enough. Move them gently from time to time, so the dirt will fall on the bottom.
      Meanwhile, put the water to boil on a high heat. The quantities of water will depend on how much dandelion you are going to blanch, but since it will be done all at once, the more water you bring to a constant boil, the quicker and more effective the bleaching will be.
      Take out the leaves and put them in a large bowl while you empty and clean the sink again.
      Fill the sink with fresh water only and repeat the bathing a couple of times until perfectly cleansed. Then, collect the leaves in one bowl draining off as much water as possible.

  • 3.
    Blanching the leaves

    • The washed dandelion
    • One large bowl full of cold water
    • The boiling water

    • One skimmer

      Fill one large bowl with cold water and put it as close as possible to the saucepan with the boiling water: it will be used to stop the cooking process which otherwise would continue overcooking them.To help this process you might want to add some ice cubes to the cold water.
      Drop the dandelion into the boiling water. Stir quickly and leave it there for no more than one or two minutes. Use the skimmer to immerse all leaves into the water.
      With the skimmer, quickly drag the leaves out of the water and drop them into the cold water in the bowl.

  • 4.
    Chilling and draining the blanched leaves

    • The blanched leaves

    • One skimmer
    • One medium bowl
    • One strainer

      Let the leaves chill completely, then collect them with the skimmer and put them in a strainer which you place over a medium bowl.
      When completely drained, portion and store in the freezer (in summer, it is a delight to season it with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper).
      When needed, defrost them slowly on the counter or, even better, putting them in the fridge overnight. Do not use the microwave: it would ruin its texture and would degrade any trace of vitamins.

Instructions

  • 1.
    Chopping off the roots

    • Dandelion - (whole plants picked running a knife’s blade underneath the base)
    • Fresh running water

    • One paring knife

      Having picked whole plants, it will be easy to go through a first quick cleansing. Shake off any residual soil attached to the roots and eliminate any other possible dirt. Then, with a paring knife, clean the roots as much as possible. Hold the plant upside down and wash them one by one under running water, going through its leaves with your fingers.

  • 2.
    Washing the leaves

    • Dandelion leaves
    • Cold water
    • Sterilising fluid for food - (use according to instructions)
    • Boiling water

    • Two large bowls (or one large bowl and the kitchen sink)
    • One large saucepan

      Clean the sink, fill it with fresh clean water and add the sterilising fluid according to itsinstructions.
      Chop off each end and bathe the leaves into the sink’s water. Let them rest for about 15 minutes or as much as the instructions say to be enough. Move them gently from time to time, so the dirt will fall on the bottom.
      Meanwhile, put the water to boil on a high heat. The quantities of water will depend on how much dandelion you are going to blanch, but since it will be done all at once, the more water you bring to a constant boil, the quicker and more effective the bleaching will be.
      Take out the leaves and put them in a large bowl while you empty and clean the sink again.
      Fill the sink with fresh water only and repeat the bathing a couple of times until perfectly cleansed. Then, collect the leaves in one bowl draining off as much water as possible.

  • 3.
    Blanching the leaves

    • The washed dandelion
    • One large bowl full of cold water
    • The boiling water

    • One skimmer

      Fill one large bowl with cold water and put it as close as possible to the saucepan with the boiling water: it will be used to stop the cooking process which otherwise would continue overcooking them.To help this process you might want to add some ice cubes to the cold water.
      Drop the dandelion into the boiling water. Stir quickly and leave it there for no more than one or two minutes. Use the skimmer to immerse all leaves into the water.
      With the skimmer, quickly drag the leaves out of the water and drop them into the cold water in the bowl.

  • 4.
    Chilling and draining the blanched leaves

    • The blanched leaves

    • One skimmer
    • One medium bowl
    • One strainer

      Let the leaves chill completely, then collect them with the skimmer and put them in a strainer which you place over a medium bowl.
      When completely drained, portion and store in the freezer (in summer, it is a delight to season it with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper).
      When needed, defrost them slowly on the counter or, even better, putting them in the fridge overnight. Do not use the microwave: it would ruin its texture and would degrade any trace of vitamins.

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