A Guest Blog by Janez Bogataj, PhD
Dandelion (Latin, Taraxacyum officinale; in Slovene language, “regrat“ )
In Slovenia we use the leaves and yellow blossoms of the dandelion. The young leaves of the dandelion are the most popular spring salad. They cleanse the blood and strengthen the body. People think that, in general, dandelion contains a fair amount of iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and the vitamins B and C. Immediately when the snow melts form the meadows, people begin to gather dandelion, and especially on weekends, meadows are full of dandelion-seekers. Of course, dandelion is sold at the markets and is on the menu in restaurants. The most characteristic method of preparing dandelion is with oil (pumpkin or olive) and
vinegar (cider or wine). Often chopped hard cook egg is added to it. Another method of preparing dandelion is to add sliced peeled hot potato to the cleaned and chopped greens, and dress it altogether with hot bacon or cracklings and sour cream. To this mixture we add vinegar. Walnuts may also be added to this salad. This method presents one of the most popular spring dishes in Slovenia. But of course you can enjoy it year round. Another variation of this method of making dandelion salad, is to cook the leaves in salted water, drain, and add to boiled potatoes. This kind of salad can be served as a side dish with roasted meat. We also prepare dandelion as a kind of spinach, and use it in soups and sauces as an herb.
From the yellow blossoms we make dandelion syrup and dandelion wine which we use as a treatment for problems with gall bladder, lungs, liver, pancreas, and for rheumatism gout, metabolism, and strengthening the immune system. Diabetic patients know about chewing raw dandelion stems. Some of the dandelion leaves and blossoms can be steeped in fruit liquor and the resulting tincture used as a medicant. The unopened buds of dandelion blossoms are stored in vinegar with spices and used instead of capers.
Pelinkovec, (from Pelin; Latin : Artemisia absinthium; in Slovene language, “pravi pelin.”)
“Pelinkovec” or pelin tincture (alcohol), is one of the best folk remedies for gall bladder and is a traditional Slovenian digestive. We know it as bitters (bitter wormwood liquor) in a partly sweetened and a sweetened preparation (wormwood liquor or sweet vermouth). Wormwood is also consumed in Slovenia in a liquid form when marinated in vinegar, wine or oil. Tea can be made from fresh or dried leaves and wormood leaves are also found in tea blends. Fresh green leaves of the spring wormwood plant are marinated in spirits which gives the liquor a beautiful yellow color. This product is called “The Yellow” and was especially popular among coal miners.
An especially interesting custom in the past and also partly today in some places in Slovenia, is that of soaking fresh wormwood leaves in white and red wine a few days before Easter. The wine would then be drunk while enjoying the abundant Easter holiday feast, especially the meat and fatty dishes (entrees). People call this drink “Christ’s Gall,” but its true purpose was to aid with digestion when eating this rich food.
Janez Bogataj, PhD, is the author of The Food and Cooking of Slovenia: Traditions, ingredients, tastes & techniques in over 60 classic recipes. He is a Professor of Ethnology at the University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Dr. Bogataj is going to be a speaker at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s annual international conference Wise Traditions 2010 next November in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Translation from the Slovene by Sylvia Onusic, PhD.
Here are two wonderful dandelion salad recipes by Mary Lou Voelk.
Another PhD, Sylvia Onusic writes about dandelion nutritional properties.