A co-worker at ETSU, Sherry Hardin, of Erwin, Tennessee, shared a recipe her mother and grandmother used. This family recipe was taken from Old Time Recipes, a local cookbook published in Kingsport, Tennessee (date unknown). A note with the recipe indicated that it was from the book Practical Housekeeping, published in 1890.
Dandelion leaves were collected. “They can be used until they bloom. Put in boiling water with a piece of salt pork. Boil one hour. Drain well. Add salted boiling water, boil two more hours. When well done and tender, turn into colander and drain.” Sherry said they were usually served with salt, pepper, and a vinegar and oil dressing.
What really interested me about this recipe was how it differed from the dandelion salad of my youth. Though southwest Iowa is far from the Appalachian region, the farming community I grew up in was quite southern in its culture. We also harvested non-cultivated plants and berries, especially dandelions, which were cut from the taproot just at ground level. This ensures that the white “stem” of the plant, from which the leaves emanate, is collected. This stem adds more crunchy meatiness to the salad. Any remaining taproot is trimmed off, and the collected leaves are thoroughly cleaned, separated, and cut in half if smaller pieces are desired. Since the dandelions can have a strong and bitter flavor, they may be mixed with lettuce in a salad. A dressing of vinegar and oil, salt, and pepper is added. The dandelion salad can be garnished with chopped hard-boiled eggs and/or diced bacon.