Apr 15, 2013

How to Preserve Dandelion Greens (and other greens, too!)

If you've never tried eating dandelion leaves, early spring is the time to try. This amazing food is better for you than any popular green, including spinach. It's packed with nutrients, and a single serving has more calcium in it than a serving of milk! To learn more about nutrition in dandelion leaves, as well as a simple method of eating them, be sure to check out this post.

The only trouble with dandelion greens, as I see it, is there is such a short window of opportunity to harvest the best of the greens. That's because once the plants send out buds, the leaves grow considerably more bitter. There are ways around this (which I'll cover in an upcoming cookbook), but to get the most nutrition from dandelion leaves, you really need to harvest them in early spring, before budding.

The good news is, dandelion leaves are very easy to preserve either by freezing, dehydrating, or canning. So once you start seeing those toothy leaves popping up, take advantage of the season and harvest as many as you can! (NOTE: All these methods of preservation work equally well with other dark, leafy greens, including collards, kale, beet greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, and spinach.)

How to Freeze Dandelion Greens

1. Fill a clean sink or large bowl with ice water. Fill a pot with water and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. 

2. Add washed dandelion leaves and cook for 1 minute. Immediately drain and place in the prepared ice water. 

3. Once the leaves are completely cool, pat them dry. Place in freezer bags. Write the date and contents on the bag and freeze for up to 1 year.

These frozen dandelion leaves are excellent in any cooked dish, including a simple saute.

How to Dehydrate Dandelion Greens
1. Wash dandelion leaves and pat dry. Place on the tray of a dehydrator.

2. Set at 135 degrees F. and dehydrate until completely dry and crisp. Store in an air tight container in a cool, dry, dark location. 

Dehydrated dandelion leaves are perfect for soups and stews, or for crushing and using as a seasoning.

How to Can Dandelion Greens

1. First, be sure you are completely familiar with safe pressure canning guidelines. You will need about 28 lbs. of dandelion leaves to make 7 canned quarts. 

2. Wash a handful of leaves at a time, drain, and pat dry. 

3. Fill a pot with a few inches of water and place a steamer insert on top. (The water should not reach the bottom of the steamer.) Place the leaves in the steamer, cover, and steam 3 to 5 minutes, or until completely wilted. 

4. If desired, add ½ teaspoon of salt to each canning jar. Fill each jar loosely with the leaves and pour fresh boiling water over them. Leave 1 inch headspace. Process pints for 70 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes.*

If you like canned spinach or collards, you'll probably like canned dandelion leaves, too. Eat them exactly the same way as those more familiar greens.

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.

Want to learn more about eating and cooking with dandelions? Check out The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook!

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