Friday, May 6, 2016

Eat your weeds!

Eating right out of your backyard is about as "local" as you can get.

Sure having a garden is a great way to do this but even more interesting (and easy) is seeing what is already growing there.

Let's first start by saying, "Don't spray those weeds!" Well, don't spray them if you want to eat them.

In the U.S. people think dandelions are just nuisance weeds. Yet, in European farmers markets, you'll find big piles of dandelion leaves for sale. When I was in Italy a couple years ago, the dandelions I saw in an outdoor market were only the leaves and no flowers but the more I've been reading, there is a ton you can do with dandelion flowers, which will be a future article.

With the leaves, I've made pesto, scrambled them in eggs and thrown them in soups. They are bitter but if you like more bitter greens like mustard greens, beet greens, kale and chard, you may like dandelion greens. 

Backyard Pesto #1 - Dandelion greens
Cut the dandelions about 2 inches from the ground (you want more to grow!) - you'll want about two cups. Younger, smaller leaves are more tender but if you just have large leaves, that's okay too. Be aware though, if you cut them and they start to ooze white juice, they are going to be super bitter. You want the newest, smallest leaves. Pull the leaves off the center of the leaf. See the image below for reference. You'd don't want the center of "core" of the leaf, the long center part that holds the leaf together - just the green leafy parts.

In a food processor, blend:
- 2 cups dandelion leaves (I put in a bowl with a sprinkle of water in the microwave for 40 seconds first)
- 2 cups fresh spinach (adding fresh spinach cuts out the bitterness a bit)
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves

Yes, this is super basic and vegan. If you'd like, add in a handful of parmesan cheese and/or pine nuts or walnuts or pecans. What I like to do is great the basic recipe above and freeze it - either in jars or ice cube trays. That way I can add cheese later if so desired. Maybe I'm a bit of purist and believe that the pesto is delicious as is! Keep in mind, it's going to have a bit of a bite. It's delicious!

Pesto is a staple in our house and I made a new batch every couple of days to freeze or eat right then. ANY green really works. It's fun to be creative. In fact, I just did a batch with arugula, spinach, and radish leaves and it was excellent. Yes, radish leaves that you usually just through away. I've even made some with fresh carrot leaves. In a small amount (mixed with spinach), the result was a spicy, earthy pesto.
Do you have a favorite, unique pesto recipe you'd like to share? I'd love to see it!

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