Dandelion salad's only necessary ingredient is dandelion greens. Often picked fresh directly from a yard or field, dandelions are flowering plants common to parts of Europe, Asia, and North America where they are often considered weeds. Only the leaves, which are somewhat bitter, are used in the salads.
Although dandelion greens can occasionally be found prepackaged, they are far more often picked directly from the wild. In native areas, these yellow flowers can be found around most open expanses of grass that have not been treated with pesticides. The leaves are long, dark green, and heavily notched. They grow at the base of the plant, and can be picked without removing the flower.
Once the leaves are picked, they are washed and shredded. The harder rib portion that runs up the center of each leaf may be discarded for a more delicate, less bitter salad. It is not necessary to remove the rib portions, however, since this is a time consuming process. In order to reduce some of the natural bitterness, the younger, less developed plants are recommended for harvesting. Another method to reduce bitterness involves soaking the leaves in salt water.
The greens may be eaten with only a dressing or the salad may include other elements. Onions, tomatoes, and chopped hard boiled eggs are all common to a dandelion salad. More unusual choices may include pine nuts and sweet fruits, like mangoes, which help to combat the possible bitterness of the leaves. Usually, the greens are the only leafy vegetable present, but occasionally other leafy herbs, like basil, may be added. Salad elements are generally tossed to combine.
Although any type of dressing can be used on dandelion salad, a warm bacon dressing or a cold vinaigrette is most common. Bacon dressing is normally made out of chopped, fresh bacon fried in oil, as well as onions or shallots, sugar, salt, and sherry or cider vinegar. Milk or cream and beaten eggs can also be added to make a creamier sauce. Vinaigrette dressing is usually made out of extra virgin olive oil; a flavored vinegar, such as red wine vinegar; and seasonings like dry mustard and crushed garlic, as well as salt and pepper.
In addition to being tasty and low cost, dandelion salad offers quite a few vitamins and nutrients. Dandelions contain good sources of vitamins A through D, as well as zinc, iron, and potassium. The leaves also may be used as a natural diuretic.