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Dandelion greens

Nancy Klehm forrages for dandeligreens Oak Park. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID HAMMOND

Nancy Klehm forrages for dandelion greens in Oak Park. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID HAMMOND

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Updated: June 3, 2014 6:04PM

At Greektown places like the Parthenon (314 S. Halsted) or Greek Islands (800 W. Adams), you can order boiled dandelion greens — called “horta” — served hot or cold.

Dandelion greens, usually large ones, are available at some Chicago grocery stores. Or, if you’re adventurous, you’ll find smaller, tenderer dandelion greens in your yard — or even in your alley.

Last spring, I foraged in my Oak Park neighborhood with Nancy Klehm, an ecological systems planner and “steward of the Earth.” Klehm and I uncovered a lot of stuff to eat growing wild in a suburban alley. Of all the edible urban wildlife we found free for the taking — including chives, various types of mint and creeping Charley (yes, it’s edible!) — dandelions are by far the easiest to spot.

Dandelion greens are high in vitamins K, A and C, and they’ve been used as part of herbal healing for thousands of years. According to Klehm, the medicinal properties of dandelion greens increase as the plants get older; when they’re younger, though, they’re sweeter and more delicious.

Don’t pick and eat anything growing on land treated with fertilizers or insecticides. That’s why overgrown alleys are perfect: No one has likely sprayed chemicals on the plants growing there. You want only the greens, not the yellow flower or stem. And the smaller the leaves, the better.

Here’s my simple recipe for cooked dandelion greens.

1. Clean and chop 2 cups dandelion greens.

2. In 2 tablespoons olive oil, saute dandelion greens.

3. Add 1 cup cooked rice and 1 tablespoon cumin; heat through.

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