Use Dandelions To Create A One-Of-A-Kind Pesto

From kale to radicchio to frisée, bitter greens are in and if you've been sleeping on dandelion greens, it's time to wake up. You might have heard of dandelion wine, dandelion honey, or dandelion tea, but have you ever tried dandelion pesto? Gardeners may hate it, but to discerning foodies, this weed is a delicacy. 

Dandelions are in the sunflower family, which also includes chicory, lettuce, and endive. Their bitterness comes from the plant's natural latex (the white milky sap that seeps from the stem). In nature, the latex fends off predators, but in the kitchen, it creates a complex pesto with an earthy flavor – bright with a bite. Word to the wise: Your go-to pesto mortar and pestle might not cut it here. Dandelion greens are hearty and wicked sturdy compared to tender basil leaves, which calls for a food processor to thoroughly pulverize.

You can harvest your own dandelions, as all parts of the dandelion plant are safe to eat, from flower to root to seed. Just be sure they're pesticide-free and far away from pollutants like city water runoff or fertilizers. Dandelion greens are also often available at farmers' markets, specialty health food stores, local food co-ops, or online during peak growing season. Store-bought dandelion greens are often much larger than the greens you'll find foraging, reaching up to two feet long. 

An unexpected pesto better than the rest-o

The first step to whipping up a killer pesto is to give those dandelion greens a good cleaning. Soil tends to stick to the tangled roots and stems, and any dirt is going to get into your pesto and affect the flavor (as well as just being kind of yucky). To make it, pulverize your regular pesto ingredients (using dandelion greens instead of basil) together in a food processor, drizzling in olive oil slowly at the end and pulsing to combine. For added herbaceousness, you could also toss some basil leaves into the mix, too.

In an airtight container in the fridge, your dandelion pesto will last for four to six days or two months in the freezer. You could even freeze this pesto in an ice cube tray for easy pre-portioned use in later recipes. (Pro tip: To prevent your pesto from browning during its fridge tenure, pour a thin layer of olive oil across its surface.)

To enjoy your dandelion pesto, you could spread it on a pizza crust with grated aged pecorino. Or, toss Gemelli pasta in it. Spread it on a turkey BLT sandwich or grilled cheese. For a light lunch, you could gently coat an arugula salad in this flavorful pesto and garnish with crumbled feta and red pepper flakes. Whip up a summer charcuterie board with halved figs, Manchego cheese, and salty prosciutto, incorporate it into potato salad, or use it as a dip with pita chips. The opportunities are endless.