Dad and his Dandelions

Today’s recipe was a recurring star of quite a few springtime dinners at the old two-flat. There’s nothing particularly special about the salad, once you get past the idea that you’re dining on dandelions. No, for my generation of Bartolini, it’s not so much the recipe as the circumstances surrounding it that we recall somewhat fondly. This is especially true for Sis and I. You see, whereas most people see crocus and daffodils in bloom and think “Spring!”, a Bartolini sees these very same things and thinks, “Cicoria!” Well, maybe not so much now anymore but certainly back in the day.

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Dad’s Dandelion Salad

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When the lawns started to green each Spring, the adults in the old two-flat became wild chicory and dandelion pickers. We kids, depending upon our age, also took part.  When very young, Mom & Zia would take us to some parkland where we’d play as they “harvested” the tender,  young dandelions growing about. A couple of years would pass and we would be considered old enough to join in on the fun. We were each given our own butter knife, shown how to cut the greens out of the ground, and taught to leave the area if “traces” of dog were spotted.  So, off we proudly went, with knife in one hand and an Easter basket in the other. That’s right. Our Easter baskets were re-purposed each Spring and used to carry the harvest.

Now, Dad loved his cicoria & dandelions and Sis & I often went with him, spending Sunday mornings after Mass picking dandelions. We loved every minute of it — until we were around 8 or 9 years of age. It was about that age when we learned that not all kids spent Sunday mornings picking dandelions. In fact, we were the only ones to do so. Peer pressure being what it was, we began to balk at the idea of spending Sunday mornings picking weeds. Did that stop Dad? Not in the slightest, for Dad’s love of dandelions knew little of, nor cared about, peer pressure. If anything, Dad’s peers probably encouraged him to get out there and pick those greens. For Sis and I, it wasn’t so much that he picked the greens, it was when and where he chose to do it.

You see, the old two-flat was on the same block as the parish church and about a half mile from both was a freeway. Having attended an early morning Mass, Sis and I would jump into the back seat of the car and off we’d go with Dad as he ran errands and stopped for “un caffè” with friends or family. That first part of the ride was fraught with anxiety for Sis and I. If Dad turned left at the Church, we were fine. It’s when he turned right that we began to get nervous — and it grew worse as we approached the freeway. If he turned anywhere before the overpass, we breathed a sigh of relief and all was well.  The same held true if we drove over and beyond the bridge. It was only when we heard his turn indicator as we drove on the overpass that we knew we were heading for the freeway and trouble! “Please, Dad, NO!” As soon as he made the left turn, Dad pulled the car onto the entrance ramp’s shoulder, no more than 10 feet from the corner.  There, in full view of our fellow parishioners — and classmates — walking to-and-from Sunday Mass, Dad pulled out his penknife & paper bag and started picking weeds, while Sis and I, mortified, dove for cover in the back seat. How could he do this to us! Two forevers later, he’d return to the car and off we’d go to the park where the pickings would be better, or so Dad said. We didn’t care. We just wanted out of there!

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Dandelion Salad

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Looking back, and hindsight being what it is, I’m pretty sure that Dad stopped along that ramp for more than just some dandelion greens. To begin with, Dad was a practical joker and he probably stood outside of the car and laughed as Sis and I tried to hide ourselves in the back seat. And although at the time it seemed like an eternity, we were actually parked there for only a few minutes and Dad never returned with more than a few greens, if any. No, we always needed to go to the park afterward and, suddenly, Sis and I were more than happy to accompany and even help him, proving there’d be no need to ever stop on that ramp again. As a result, we had all the greens Dad needed in no time flat and soon we were on our way to our next stop.

See what I mean? In today’s vernacular, we got played!

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Preparing a Dandelion Salad

Although I’ve seen dandelion greens in produce markets, the leaves are very large and usually served cooked. We use are the tender new plants that begin to grow in early Spring. Look for dandelions in areas where there is little chance of fertilizer or weed killer having been used and as far away from dog “traffic” as possible. Open parkland is good, as are rural fields.  Look for young plants. If it has a bloom, it’s likely too old and too large. Once you’ve found one suitable for harvesting, use your knife to sever the plant from its roots below ground level. Continue harvesting until you’ve enough for your needs. I normally pick enough for a minimum of 2 salads.

Once home, soak the greens in cold water. One by one, rinse under running water and trim away any off-color leaves and all of the (brown) root stem.  There may be underdeveloped flower buds in the heart of the plant. I remove them; you may prefer otherwise. Depending on the size of each plant, you may wish to cut it in half or, by trimming off the very bottom of the plant, separate the individual leaves. Place trimmed greens in cold, fresh water and continue until all are cleaned and trimmed. Dry the greens and reserve enough for your salad. Wrap the rest in a paper towel, seal in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. The greens will stay fresh for a few days if stored properly.

The salad itself is really quite basic and you may wish to add more ingredients. Our insalata consists of dandelions, some sliced onion, chopped hard-boiled eggs, a dressing of oil & red wine vinegar, and seasoned with salt & pepper. That’s all there is to it and I believe that’s because the greens were special and only available for a few weeks every Spring. Keeping the salad simple ensured that the tender dandelions took center stage and their flavor wasn’t overpowered. Make yourself one of these insalate and you’ll find it a tasty little salad and, like asparagus, a great way to bring Spring to the dinner table.

And if you’ve children, you may wish to borrow a page from Dad’s parenting book. Keep an old butter knife and bag under the driver’s seat of your car. If the kids are “acting up” in the car, just drive by a favorite playground or practice field and announce that the dandelions look delicious and that “Everyone’s going pickin’!”  I’m willing to bet that you’ll only need to get out of the car one time, if at all, especially if you wave to their friends as your drive up to the curb. Best of all,  you’ll give them a great memory to recall when they reach — ahem — middle age.

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134 thoughts on “Dad and his Dandelions

  1. Dandelions are a very traditional salad ingredient in France and are known as “pis-en-lit” ( pee in the bed) owing to their diuretic properties. Very nice still life of the salad on the decorated plate, and excellent childhood memory tale:)

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    • Thanks, Roger, for the encouraging words and for today’s French lesson. I must have been absent that day in high school when dandelion salad was covered in French class. 😉

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      • I was going to say the same thing! Even in England dandelion was frowned upon by children since it was famed for making you wet the bed… As a grown up I’ve discovered it’s great in salad and I’m not incontinent yet! Great post 😉

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        • Roger’s comment was the first I’ve heard of dandelion’s diuretic properties. Then again, with the power of suggestion in their minds, I seriously doubt that my parents would have ever mentioned it to us, even if they knew. And though I’ve never had “the problem” after enjoying a dandelion salad, this is a good thing to know. In 20 or 30 years, I may need an excuse. 😉

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      • The interesting thing about it, as far as I remember, is that children won’t touch the dandelion for fear of wetting the bed – eating it didn;t come into the equation!

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        • I’ve never heard this before but, as I mentioned, it’s the last idea my parents would want to plant in our heads. I’m going to ask around, though, and see if any of my friends have ever heard of this. I can’t help but wonder how many kids went to bed frightened because an older sibling made them touch a dandelion that afternoon? Too funny! 🙂

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  2. In our household we’ve been so wasteful all these years, just mowing over our harvest every Saturday. What a lovely post of certainly, a bygone era. I make a similar salad but it is with baby spinach leaves, eggs, red wine vinegar and a few crunchy bacon bits. I would love to try dandelion leaves xx

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    • You know you’re right, Charlie. As much as I may enjoy a salad with “all of the fixins”, sometimes simple is best. Mom served us that exact spinach salad you mentioned countless times during my youth — and I still make it occasionally today, as well. Why gild the lily, or spinach in this case? 🙂

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    • Thank you! Those memories are pretty much hard-wired into our minds. Sis & I laugh about them now but, at the time, we were so embarrassed. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

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  3. Oh John, before I´d even read your post this bought a torrent of memories rushing back for me. I love the story, and can imagine you and your sister cringing in the back seat of the car! We too used to eat Dandelions and my godmother then went a step further and turned half her garden (next door to ours, we had taken the fence down between the two gardens for easier access and more space for the two families) into an area for growing cicoria. It was all netted off (from birds and children) and you can imagine how we kids (my brother and her 2 daughters) felt about this, I remember one day we were all in serious trouble when we decided to make “caffé” by using an old coffee pot we had been given to play with and filling it with earth mixed with water to make coffee. Being the little gourmets we were the best, softest earth for our coffee was where the cicoria was planted…well, I am sure you can imagine my godmother´s reaction to find we had been digging up her precious salad!

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    • I knew it would, Tanya, and I’m glad it did. Your family must have really liked cicoria for your Grandmother to convert her entire garden to growing it. I’m surprised you kids survived to tell the tale of making your special caffè out of such hallowed earth! Grandpa was the same way with his garden and its tomatoes and insalata. He got seeds from someone in Italy and that lettuce patch was his pride and joy. Woe to the child whose ball, frisbee, or whatever sailed within a foot of that patch! I’m going to pass along your caffè tale to Zia and I’m sure she’ll enjoy it. If she has one of her own to tell, I’ll be sure to let you know. It was she, by the way, that reminded me that we used our Easter baskets to hold the cut greens. I’d forgotten all about that. 🙂

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  4. I can see your dad pulling up to the side of the road and you and sis dying with embarrassment even before he has stopped the car. I think it is a parents duty to embarrass us when we are young – well so it seems.
    LOVE the idea of this salad – I am off to hunt down some dandelion leaves…
    🙂 Mandy

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    • Well, my Dad certainly took that “duty” seriously! At the time. Sis & I thought him totally oblivious to how he was ruining our lives. Now we realize how just wrong we were and laugh about it. Good luck harvesting!

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  5. I love the fleetingly available vegetables of spring. Haven’t had a dandelion salad for years! Now to the daunting task of finding a dogless site around here. Thanks, John.

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    • This was the first dandelion salad I’d made in a couple years but I’ve promised Zia that I’d pick some when I visit her next time. I went along the lakefront, Gail, for my cicoria. The grass was barely grown so I could easily see if the area had been “spoiled.” This year, with the warm weather, dandelion season came early. Who knew?

      How about we make a date to go dandelion picking next Spring and enjoy a nice lunch afterward? 🙂

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  6. A wonderful story!! It’s funny that no matter what our parents did there was a certain age when we became aware that it was “embarassing”. You made me laugh John and thank you. And yes to a simple salad of dandelion leaves, dressed so simply.

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    • And thank you, Claire. I think it’s a right of passage, of sorts, for both parties when a child rolls her/his eyes for the 1st time in response to something a parent has said or done. It’s universal. No matter how cool we may think a person might be, he’s still Dad, she’s still Mom, and their kids are still embarrassed. 🙂

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  7. I’ve always wondered about dandylion salad, but I thought it was bitter. You’ve made it very appetizing; having said that, I’m still a bit squeamish re the dog-thing. We’re fortunate in Toronto, they have banished all chemical fertilizers and weed killers, but I doubt I would trust anything found on parkland. And last fall we abolished all the grass on our lot (it didn’t grow well) so I’m out of luck 😦
    The story was both endearing and entertaining, thank you for sharing it with us. My Dad too was a bit of a prankster too, thanks for the lovely memories,

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    • You’re very welcome, Eva, and, yes, you have to be careful where you pick. We’re fortunate here and there are plenty of “safe” places to go picking. Our entire lakefront, all 28 miles, is parkland and there are numerous forest preserves, none of which are ever fertilized or treated chemically. Even so, I only go when the grass is just turning green so that I can get a good look around before I start picking. Dad taught me well.

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      • Agreed, your lake front is incredible…Mayor Daly came up to Toronto a few years ago to advise on how Toronto can transform it’s horrible lake shore into something like yours! Did you know that Frank Gehry is Canadian? He designed the 925-foot-long winding bridge connecting Millennium Park to Daley Bicentennial Plaza. Cool eh?
        I love the Bean.

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        • Not to make light of the suffering it caused, The Fire did this city a favor, allowing for a rare, relatively modern “do over”. I didn’t know Gehry was a Canadian. Yes, it is cool I need to send pics of it to the folks up in Winnipeg. The Bean is one of those public art projects that, at first, you wonder what kind of monstrosity are they proposing. You watch it being built and still it leaves you wondering. Then, once completed, you get to see it and you wonder why it wasn’t erected earlier. I, too, love it and really enjoy watching people walk up and “discover” it.

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  8. I had a recipe around here for dandelion wine somewhere. I remember my mom saying they would make a salad out of the greens as well. When times were tight you ate what was there sometimes. Yes indeedy! This brought back memories. ps. My dad was a cut up too 🙂

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    • Like you, this post seems to have triggered memories for a number of people and I love hearing that. I, too, heard of dandelion wine when I was a kid but no one, that I remember, ever made any. We had family friends that had a huge wine press in their basement and they made wine for everyone. I was way too young for even a taste but, as I recall, it was pretty potent stuff. 🙂

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  9. That would have given a totally different meaning to my mother’s refrain of “Am I going to have to stop this car?” 🙂
    Can’t convince Hubby to eat the dandelions or chickweed out of the yard, but the arugula – a weed in its native places – is his favorite!
    Go figure…

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    • Oh, yeah, David, that sounds really good! Bacon fat makes everything taste better! Personally, today I’ll add a few ingredients to my salad but I wanted to document the way the salad was always served back in the day. Bacon fat, eh? Hmmm…

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  10. I enjoyed reading the story of your childhood – love stories like this 🙂
    Before moving to the Northern Hemisphere I did not even know if the existance of dandilions, let alone know that you could eat them! I imagine that, as with any plant, the younger the greens are the tastier they are. When we move to an area where I am sure they are not fertilised by dog, I think I will give it a try.

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    • Thank you, Colline. Yes, the younger plants aren’t nearly as bitter as the larger, older ones. Finding a “clean” area is, of course critical. Here, we worry about dogs and chemicals. In rural Michigan, it’s deer that are the concern. That’s why going in early Spring is so advantageous. The plants are young and tender and the grass hasn’t yet grown enough to obscure the landscape. I hope you do give them a try one day. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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  11. OMGosh John I am still laughing, I could have written that post…I remember picking the “weeds” with my mom and aunt…we woruld pick danilion but also something that whe called “robast / rabast”??? I tried to do a google search and could not come up with anything…but they sure were good…we did not cook them, they were enjoyed cold in a salad, had a taste like arugula…if I can recall..so funny, gosh that really brought back a memory…

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed today’s post, Maria. It has triggered similar memories for many people. It’s as if our parents all attended the same seminar, “How to Embarrass Your Kids Without Really Trying.” 🙂
      I’m not familiar with “robast/rabast” but I will ask Zia about it the next time we chat. I don’t know how that got past Dad’s radar. Another chance to embarrass us AND have fresh greens? There has to be a reason that I just don’t know about.

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  12. Great story, put a smile on my face. I too would be hiding in the back of the car! Sounds like you had a great dad loving dad with a sense of humor! Great looking salad, great tips too on picking them while young and away from “doggy traffic!” (made me lol) Have a great day!

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    • Always glad to brings smiles, Lisa. Yes, Dad was something and he never let pass an opportunity to “give us the business,” as Mom would say. Now you’ve got me smiling. Thanks! 🙂

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  13. I loved the idea of your dad, all straight faced, getting out on the highway in FULL VIEW to rummage about with his bag and his knife!! so funny.. you poor kids! .. we eat them here too, in fact i cultivate the ones in stalkers garden which is fenced in. I never dig out the roots tho, i just pull out the tiny shoots in the middle and come back tomorrow for more.. I call it (much to johns horror) weed salad. Weed salad also has lambs quarters, baby lettuce, babu spinach, tiny shoots of regrowing kale, celeriac leaves and the new borage leaves. (All of this was growing merrily before last nights mean frost, i dare not look now!) I have to visit about three gardens to get everything I need. I fed weed salad to my guests the other night, John looked mortified but they were delighted (or pretended to be!). Unfortunately i had not learnt the french name for dandelions yet or I could have horrified Our John even more!! ha ha ha // have a great day! c

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    • Dad was really something, Celi! I’m sure that if we had a bed for dandelions, as you do, we would have just picked the leaves, just as we did with the parsley, lettuce, or chard. Lacking that bed, we did the city & county governments a favor by weeding their property. 🙂

      I hope you blog about your “weed” salad, Celi, especially since your “weeds” are cultivated. Your salad is a far cry from our simple one and sounds delicious. I’m sure that Zia will be very interested to read your recipe. And yeah, I wondered whether you guys got any frost last night. We were lucky, here in the city, that temps didn’t get quite cold enough for frost. Still, I bet this will be the last of it for the season. Fingers crossed.

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  14. My mother tells of picking dandelions in the spring in Illinois, with my Grandmother’s strict instructions to pick only the tiniest and tenderest. She never made us pick or eat them here in California.

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  15. I’ve been waiting patiently for your newest post.. and this one has everything I’ve been waiting for.. a wonderful story.. and good laugh.. some advice for parents and a recipe I’ve never seen before! Sadly, the dandelions here are all liberally laced with pesticide.. There has been some momentum in a movement to stop poisoning our earth (and the population) but there is still pesticide use here. If I’m lucky, I may find some tender leaves in a specialty market here. I love that your dad “played” you kids.. and remember laying mortified on the floor of our car.. Hmm, I also recall my daughter doing the same:) xo Smidge

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    • I’m so glad, Barb, that you enjoyed today’s post and thank you for leaving such a kind comment. It’s a wonder my Sis & I survived such abuse! 🙂 And if a child doesn’t have at least 5 similar stories of being completely embarrassed by a parent, that parent didn’t do her/his job. Glad to hear you did yours!

      It’s sad that despite how prevalent dandelions are, chemicals are even more common and must be taken into account before you can start picking. That’s why we never pick any around homes or landscaped areas. No telling what’s been used to get that perfect, green lawn. 😦

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  16. Your story reminded me of the “fun” we had on the farm early in the planting season–me with the bag of corn, my sister with the hoe. After the 5th or 15th row, we were less enthused and by the time we were over the age of 9 or 10 we knew the consequences of canning those rows would produce mid-summer when our friends were busy splashing in a pool or shopping. Foraging and farming is work, but makes for great memories and stories now, much like your dandelion memories with your sister. Great story.

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    • Thank you, Judy. I must admit to being a little surprised with how many memories this post has stirred. It’s been a real pleasure to read everyone’s recollections — and yours is no exception. With Grandpa’s garden, we were at first thrilled to be old enough to help him and did all we could. A few years later, we dreaded it and tried to hide from him when he came looking for help. I can only imagine how much more work you had on a farm and how much more you must have dreaded it. And I bet you have your own wonderful stories to tell. I’ll be all ears whenever you wish to tell some of them. 🙂

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  17. I thought my sisters and I were they only ones who had to pick dandelions for dinner! My sister just recently posted a sauteed dandelion recipe. I never tell Hubster when I mix in dandelion greens, he wouldn’t even try it. We were just wondering what our neighbors were thinking, as their lawns are a sea of green and ours is covered with soft yellow dandelions. This past weekend my parents were suggesting that it’s time to make some dandelion wine! 🙂

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    • I’m surprised to learn just how rampant this dandelion picking form of child abuse was during our youth! At the time, we thought we were the only kids on the planet forced to “work the fields.” How funny! I’ve never eaten cooked dandelions but have often thought of giving them a try. Bitter greens were a mainstay at our dinner table, so, I don’t think I’d find them objectionable. I think the hardest part would be getting used to the idea of cooking them and not putting them in a salad. If you guys make dandelion wine, I hope you blog about the process. I, for one, would be very interested.

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  18. Boy John…I wish you had posted this a few weeks ago. We received some dandelion greens in our CSA and I totally choked on their preparation. At least I have your wise guidance on file now for further use. cheers!

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    • Sorry, Jed. I had planned to blog about this weeks ago but my back developed some issues and I couldn’t go pickin’ for a while. I promise I’ll do better next time. 🙂
      I’m impressed that your CSA includes dandelions. Just a few days ago, I was looking into CSAs that serve Chicago. I’m canvasing friends to see if any use one or if they know of a good one. Until then, I’ll happily go to my farmer’s markets for everything but dandelions.

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  19. Your dads salad looks absolutely amazing and delicious. There’s nothing like great memories.. they last forever and always make you smile :). And for some reason, I never get tired of salads and for the life of me I have no idea why lol. This looks delish my friend

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    • Thanks, Kay. The best thing about this salad, like asparagus, is that it’s only served in early Spring. Like the 1st robin you see, it means that Winter is officially over.

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  20. I just loved picturing you and your sister with your butter knives! I can just imagine children the age of my two grandchildren thinking this was a grand adventure, but I can just as easily shift gears thinking of the potential embarrassment to children a bit older! And yet I so admire the resourcefulness of not letting something beautifully edible be treated like lawn waste! We wouldn’t walk but a trailing zucchini and even begin to think of it as unessential! I remember more dandelions in our grass and yards when I was a child and don’t see them as often now. I think yards are so “manicured” for show now that children aren’t even encouraged to play in the front yard. What a story that becomes! Maybe I need to begin by purchasing the larger dandelions and cultivating a taste for the salad…and then work my way up to foraging. Can you see me in my neighborhood with a butter knife and flashlight…I’m not bold enough to do it by day! 🙂 I love your family stories, John. They should all be compiled into a book! Debra

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    • Thanks, Debra. Your granddaughters are the perfect age to begin training. Like us, the idea of being handed a knife — even if an old, dull butter knife — and showed how to use it means that they’re practically all grown up! Oh, how quickly our enthusiasm turned to loathing when an off-comment on the school yard led to ridicule and embarrassment and we realized no one else picked and ate “weeds.” And Dad parking on the freeway ramp was the topper! To this day, I cannot think about that without laughing and if I’m “harvesting, I smile the entire time. Onlookers must think I’ve lost my mind, weeding parkland and chuckling while doing it. Go ahead and try it for yourself, Debra. The key is not to harvest in your neighborhood. Surely there’s a freeway nearby. 🙂

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  21. I read the whole post and comments and am still smiling while writing this. Pictures of you and sis in the fields and hiding in the car keep popping into my head, such memories for you and your sis to treasure.
    Bet if “Insalata della Cicoria” appeared at some high end restaurant (charging big bucks) people would order it, but call it “Dandelion Salad” and you could not give it away.

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    • Norma you are so right. Put a fancy or foreign name on something and people will pay 3 times its worth and love it. You’re also right about these memories. I do treasure them and I’m certain my Sister does, too. We’ve spoken of them many times and laugh each and every time. Thanks, Norma, for commenting. 🙂

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  22. Hah – your Dad got you both. 🙂 Love this story, and am actually ingtigued by using Dandelion greens. I pick so many out of our yard/garder, I could probably make a decent size salad. Hmmm.

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  23. I want the salad AND the plate! They are both stunning. Okay so I’ve never tried dandelion greens, unless they were mixed and cooked in Horta when we were in Greece and I didn’t know it. Do they taste like arugula or what do they taste like..other than bitter if you get them too old? I had some dandelions just south of my little garden that I mowed over a couple of weeks ago, but am going to go back and check to see if they’ve risen again! What a great story about your dad, and I can just see him smiling while you and your sister hid. I’ll bet he was really a card, and such a great person to have as a dad.

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    • Yes, Betsy, Dad was a card, all right, and Sis and I played right into his hands. 🙂
      Although bitter, dandelions aren’t as bitter as arugula but I’ve only eaten very small, young plants. From what I’ve been told, the older and larger the leaves, the more bitter they become. And if the Man telling you this has the power to stop the car in front of your best friend’s house because “that cicoria looks ripe,” you tend to listen and only pick the tiniest of plants for the rest of your life. 🙂

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    • Thanks, ZBD! For me, a nice dandelion salad is a harbinger of Spring, just like asparagus or robins. I love it and now that I know you do, I’ll have some ready for you when you visit. 🙂

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  24. I lived reading this- what a great story! It is so funny to think of your dad relishing your utter embarrassment. It makes me smile to think of how I’ll be able to mortifying my kids when they get just a little bit older. This was all so vividly told, and I am dying to try dandelion greens now. To think that I’ve been feeding them to the chickens with other “weeds” I’ve pulled (many of which, I have recently learned, are not only edible but quite tasty too).

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    • I’m so glad that you enjoyed today’s post. And yes, if you’re not an embarrassment to your children, you’re not doing it right! 🙂

      I cannot speak of other weeds, though I’m sure some are both edible and tasty, but I do love a dandelion salad in the Spring. It sounds to me like your chickens are very well fed! 🙂

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  25. Oh John! What a beautiful story… Thanks!!
    I will love to try your dad’s salad, but I’m afraid is a bit difficult for me to find a save dog free area 😦
    Thanks again, I love it when and how you talk about your family 🙂

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    • Thank you, Giovanna, and having visited Madrid, I know exactly what you mean. Your only options would be to grow your own or to go out into the country. No, I think your best bet would be to make a nice salad with some baby greens grown locally. They may not be dandelions but they will be just as tasty.

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  26. You poor kids! LOL! What a memory, I love it! Oh John, I can’t begin to describe how much I loved this post. I find myself excited about what you’re going to post next, and this post is a perfect example of why. Just amazing, and I feel better just reading about your memories. You are incredible, sir!

    Hubby and I were just talking about dandelion greens and how we could try them for the first time. Now we know!

    Thank you SO much for taking the time to write and post this. You made my week! Big time…

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    • Thank you, Sarah, for leaving such an encouraging comment and for seeing that we were so mistreated! ((laughter)) The subject of dandelion picking never fails to give Sis and I a good laugh, especially when the freeway ramp is mentioned. Dad got us both good, real good!

      If you do give dandelion greens a try, please come back to tell me if you like them. The smaller the dandelion, the better. Good luck!

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  27. Your photographs are stunning and in a wonderful light. The ceramic dish looks like Della Robbia.
    But the childhood memory, the hiding in the backseat, the shared history with your sister and the hindsight….ah, the hindsight as we sort through and make sense of what we experienced with out parents and grandparents, siblings, neighbors, friends and relatives. That is what you capture the best, John!

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    • Thank you, Ruth, for your generous comments. It’s been well over 40 years since Dad parked the car on that freeway ramp for the last time but I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was Dad as the practical joker that we would come to know better as we matured but, at the time, we were far too embarrassed to think of anything but ourselves. And today, Sis & I cannot help but laugh whenever the subject of dandelion picking is mentioned.

      The plate, by the way, came from Capri and buying it caused me to miss the ferry boat back to the Naples. Mussolini had been gone for decades. Who knew the boat, like his trains, would leave on time? 🙂

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  28. Your story brought a smile to my face as I was imagining the horror you felt picking weeds to eat for dinner. LOL However, what a lovely salad and so full of spring and fresh. Jus think of all the money we have spent on round up and weed killer and instead we could have been making some stellar salads. Will be book marking this one. Take care, BAM

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed today’s post, BAM. It was a fun one to write. Sunday mornings with Dad were special and evolved as we grew up. For me, dandelion Sundays rank high on my list of favorites. As I mentioned in another comment, dandelion salads for us are like asparagus. The greens are only available once a year and their appearance on the dinner table means that Spring has finally arrived. I hope you do try them sometime. I’m sure you’ll like them. 🙂

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  29. Such great memories with you dad, thanks for sharing John. Hey, who says it’s not acceptable to pick dandelions anymore!? 🙂 This salad sounds so fresh and delicious. I’m loving that plate you used for the salad as well–too pretty.

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  30. Wonderful, the story and the salad. Your version of our wild asparagus! I see Roger’s already explained the French name for dandelions. I remember going to the market in Dieppe in northern France once and all the vegetable stalls had dandelions and very little else. We don’t have so many here in the south. Your Dad reminds me of mine who also loved to forage for free food wherever he went.

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    • Thank you. Dad was, indeed a forager. Dandelions, mushrooms and whatever else he could find. He told us that once, as a boy, he and a friend were climbing trees robbing bird nests of their eggs. He stuck his hand into an overhead nest and pulled out a snake that had bitten and held onto his thumb! He never got over his fear of snakes and would ask me to remove any that appeared around their house.

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  31. What a fun story! It is a little enjoyable to make the kidlets cringe from time to time ….. I’ve certainly heard “Mum! You’re embarrassing us!” a few times over the years 😄 . I just may give the dandelion salad a try one of these days. I wouldn’t want to pick them unless I could be absolutely certain they hadn’t been sprayed, but they do sell the greens in the market I frequent (actually, it’s where I seem to spend all my disposable income!).

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    • Thanks, Mar. I think embarrassing one’s children is one of the unsung benefits of parenthood. I know my Dad seemed to enjoy it! 🙂
      I know what you mean about the spraying. I don’t care how fresh and nutritious the greens may be, if there’s the slightest chance that they’ve been sprayed with anything, I’m outta there. My markets carry dandelions year-round but the leaves are very large, about 18″. I believe they are too bitter to eat raw. If I could find some that are smaller, I’d definitely give them a try.

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  32. Have never considered eating Dandelion greens before, but now I’d better. The salad looks so spring-y and fresh. Love the hard boiled egg slices. Nice photo John! I like to tell my teens, “Embarrassing you is just another free service I provide. You are welcome.” I figure we embarrass them whether we are doing something actually embarrassing or not, so we might as well go for the gold. Maybe your dad had the same theory. 😉 He really went for it apparently. Have a great weekend.

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    • Dandelions were like asparagus for us. Both meant Spring was here! If a parent doesn’t embarrass the kids, they aren’t doing their job. I think my Dad strived to see our eyes roll and cheeks blush. Gotta love him for that!

      Like

  33. A wonderful story, as always John. I can just see you and your sister horrified that your friends would see your father or far worse the two of you dandelion foraging.

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  34. I absolutely needed to read this tonight. It’s been a hectic week and this story put such a smile on my face. I’ve never eaten a Dandelion salad before, but I might have to try. I just love dandelions. They are probably my favorite part of spring. Thank you for the smile tonight John. 🙂

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    • I’m glad to have been of service, Kristy. I bet you’ve had more than just one hectic week and if I can bring a smile to your face, that’s great! I hope this week is a little easier for you. 🙂

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  35. Hi John, I so enjoyed reading your childhood adventures! Sunday after mass, wow, that brought me right back home! I always wondered why they just didn’t grow the dandelions in their own backyard?? My dad had a big garden and grew lots of veggies, so why embarrass us all and go out and pick weeds, in plain sight of everyone? 🙂 I guess I’ll never get that answer from my Dad, but like you, it’s a family memory for sure! The salad looks gorgeous, you took a fabulous pic on that plate (yes, you know me, checking out your serving pieces!!)

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    • Thanks, Linda. I remembrer you’d mentioned dandelion picking a while back and hoped you would enjoy this post. Did you read Tanya’s comment? When she was a child, a fence was removed so that her neighboring Godmother’s garden could be attached to her family’s. Her Godmother’s garden was reserved for cicoria. Now that’s dedication! There simply was not enough room in our garden for cicoria. First and foremost, Grandpa was a tomato grower. Sure, he grew other things but the prime garden real estate went to his beloved pomodori.

      I know you must be busy as all get-out but I hope you’re finding time to relax a bit. And again, good luck with all you’ve got to do. 🙂

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  36. John, another completely engaging, heart-hugging story of growing up Bartolini! I think I love your Dad! And I think I’d love your salad. My association with dandelions (unfortunately I’d have to get past this) is making chains of the flowers as a girl, garlands for my hair, and then accidentally licking my fingers and getting that foul dandelion milk on my tongue. Does soaking the leaves alleviate that problem? Again, a wonderful post, as is your habit! And I love the photo of the finished salad in its bowl!

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    • Thank you, Spree. Dad was something else and I thing he would have enjoyed reading everyone’s response to his dandelion-picking ways! One of the reasons for going after the young plants is that there are no flowers nor milk. To be sure, I check the “heart” of each plant and remove even the smallest of buds that might be found there. Of course, you can always just sever the leaves and discard the heart, if you like. 🙂

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  37. Thank you John for another heart warming story. Your dad really reminds me of my grandfather, he was a joker too and he had his own way of teaching a lesson or making a point.
    I have never had dandelions in a salad but will definetly keep an eye for it now.
    Love your plate by the way 🙂

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  38. John, I have just found your blog (thanks to Charlie at Hotly Spiced) and have just spent an enjoyable time looking through it. Regarding the dandelion and it diuretic abilities (though as a child I wouldn’t have known what that word meant) I also recall it being called here in Australia “pee the bed”. Maybe it’s a generational thing for people over 50.

    My lovely Italian greengrocer used to tell me about growing up in Italy when the family used to go out picking what we would have considered were ‘weeds’. I think I’ll go and see what is growing in the lawn.

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    • Welcome, Anny!

      Charlie has quite a good blog, doesn’t she? She’s a talented writer and her family stories always leave me wanting more.

      Yes, all of this talk of dandelions as a diuretic is news to me. Then again, I doubt if any of the “grown ups” would have mentioned it for fear of the power of suggestion. That’s all they would have needed, to have the 6 of us kids in the two flat wet the bed at night. Dandelions would have instantly become “adult food”. 🙂

      I remember my Dad and maternal Grandfather, both of whom grew up on farms, talking about foraging for all kinds of greens and the like when they lived in Italy. It’s been far too many years for me to recall what it was they picked. I’m satisfied just picking dandelions. I’m not much of an daredevil when it comes to food. I’ll eat most things — if they’re known to be edible. I’m not about to be one that finds out.

      Thanks for stopping by, Anny, and for taking the time to comment. 🙂

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  39. Hi John, I’ve just discovered your wonderful blog! I used to pick dandelions in the cemetery in the Bronx with my grandmother, Teresa, after visiting family graves. She’d pull out her pen knife and plastic baggie….most people can’t relate 😉 I describe myself as half Italian-American (maternal grandparents came over from Basilicata –grandpa first, then went back to marry grandma and bring her over) and half Italian (father from Rome). I have spent a lot of my life in Italy and am familiar with Le Marche–a beautiful region that not many tourists ever see. And I love Chicago. I’ve been in Madison for years, and need my big city fix every now and again.

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    • Welcome, Lisa! Ive been in Michigan visiting my Zia, the “star” of this blog and contributing editor. A brief synapsis of my family’s history in in the ROOTs page. I’m glad you found us!

      I’m surprised to see just how many people picked dandelions as children. At the time, we thought we were the only kids in the world that were force to endure such humiliation! Just this past Monday, I picked dandelions for our dinner that night. I never would have thought that possible when I was young!

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  40. John, I saw this post and had to check it out! I too grew up with my grandmother whom always was looking to pick dandelions. It was one of her obsessions! We would pick them with her. She prepared so much with them. She didn’t drive, so we drove her everywhere. She was always ready for the dandelion picking. Your salad looks sensational and sounds so good right now with boiled eggs!

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    • Thank you so much, Judy. I really enjoy it when one of my posts triggers memories for others. I was surprised how many people had “dandelion pickin’ backgrounds.” 🙂
      I’ve not picked them myself in decades and I smiled the entire time I gathered them for this post. I must have been quite the sight for the passersby. That’s OK. I thoroughly enjoyed the salad.

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  41. Pingback: You Say Frittatas and I Say Frittate | from the Bartolini kitchens

  42. Dandelions make a dandy salad! A couple of days ago on our daily walk my wife and I walked past a house that had an abundance of dandelions. I was so tempted to go back and harvest some – and still am, truth be told. But who knows what chemicals that person used on their lawn? Although obviously not weed killer! Maybe I should just grown a bed of dandelions for our own use. Hmm, not that bad of an idea now that I think about it! Really great story and fun post – thank you.

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    • That’s the problem, John. You just don’t know what a homeowner has done to his lawn. Add the dog traffic and I avoid picking dandelions around homes. The city of Chicago owns about 27 miles of shoreline with Lake Michigan and almost all of it is parkland, in one form or another. No American city has the cash reserves to do anything with that much grass than mow it occasionally. Then it’s just a matter of finding a spot that’s literally far off the beaten path and start picking — much to the amusement of the rare passerby. 🙂

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    • Oh, I know what you mean. My garden is in containers because of my dogs and I’d never pick anything growing there for consumption. Yikes! It’s best to find the road less traveled when picking dandelions. 🙂

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  43. How easily mortified we used to be, eh? One of my earliest, and fondest memories of Italy was watching people wandering the back roads and pathways picking ‘weeds’ for salads and risottos … what a shame we never did – though I’m glad to see Celi does, at the farmy – before letting the dandelions mature and have flowers for the bees. 🙂

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    • My Sis and I laugh about those car rides, and our response, every Spring. I have picked dandelions here and get some mighty strange looks, in the process. Somewhere, my Dad is smiling. 🙂

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  44. Hi John,
    Every now and again, I randomly browse blogs that I follow and I am here on this post because I was discussing dandelions with a friend yesterday. I have lots of dandelions in my backyard (its dog less), but I just can’t get myself to eat dandelions salad. He posted dandelion salad two days ago and said “chose the young, tender ones too”, but I still haven’t gotten the courage to try. The story about your you and your sis hiding is hilarious! I enjoyed browsing…Kind regards!

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    • Thanks, Liz, for taking the time to explore and comment upon these older posts. I waited too long this year so there was no dandelion salad gracing my table. 😦
      I think it funny that as much as my family enjoyed dandelions, they never cooked them. It just wasn’t done and I’ve never tried it either. Glad that you enjoyed the story of Sis and I. Dad was really something and today, in retrospect, I’m sure he loved every second of our “suffering” 🙂

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  45. Pingback: Maltagliati Pasta with Pistachio Pesto | from the Bartolini kitchens

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