Archive for June 25th, 2011

June 25, 2011

Edible Weed #2, Glowing Vinaigrette & Lessons from Austria

Maybe you saw the comment on my first edible weeds post reminding me of when my eyes were first opened to the concept of weeds being edible.

When I was in college I was fortunate enough to be able to do a study abroad program in Graz, Austria.   That trip left a huge impression on me.  I lived with a wonderful host family and made life-long friends.  It’s also where my eyes were opened up to what incredible consumers we are in the US.  At times I almost felt guilty for being from the US, even embarrassed.  I think we’ve made great strides in the years since I was there, but we’re not even to the level of consciousness now that Europeans were nearly 20 years ago.

Their impression of us was that everything is big.  Big houses, big cars, Big Macs.  My impression of them when I first got there was that they did everything the hard way and everything was small. Small cars, small houses, everything they bought came in small packages, with very little packaging.  That was the first time I’d seen the small rectangular cartons that we can now buy broths, milk, etc. in.  At the time they were foreign to me, including lunch.

Lunch is the main meal of the day in Europe, which when you think about it, is way healthier than eating the main meal in the evening like the majority of Americans do.  When you eat in the middle of the day you’ll get energy when you’ll use it vs. filling up when you’re winding down at the end of the day when we don’t need it and then turn it into storage!

I’ll never forget the day I sat down to lunch with my host family and looked at the salad we were having.  Everything in my bowl looked peculiar.  The vinaigrette dressing was glowing green, but that wasn’t as disturbing as what it was on.  I thought I was going crazy, but this “lettuce” that was in my bowl looked a lot like leaves of the most common weed at home.  Since I’d just gotten to Austria and was still getting used to “Styrish” (the dialect in the part of Austria I was in) I thought something must be getting lost in translation.  Did my host mom just say we’re eating dandelions for lunch?  I laughed so hard at the concept.  I mean seriously, these people are eating for lunch, what we are determined to destroy with chemicals everyday!  Then I tried it.  Awesome!  The combination of the glowing green vinaigrette (made with pumpkin seed oil) and the dandelions soon became one of my favorite salads.  The next phone call to my parents I told them to quit putting chemicals on the lawn – the dandelions were lunch!

So there you have it, edible weed #2.  Dandelions!  Other than your front yard, dandelion greens can be found in co-ops, farmer’s markets and the mixed greens in most supermarkets.

Now run out and pick yourself a salad! (Unless of course you put chemicals on them, then definitely stay away!)