Written by Katelin Storrer
There are many plants and fungi in Kansas that are edible, but perhaps the easiest to find is the common dandelion. Many people see these as pesky weeds but their ability to grow for almost ¾’s of the year is admirable when it comes to foraging. Recently I found myself in a rut: I didn’t want to go grocery shopping but I didn’t have anything to make a complete meal for dinner. I took myself for a walk and began wondering what I could use around me. I started gathering leaves from the bottom of dandelions until I had a good bunch and headed home. I had a good start now that I had some greens but I didn’t know what to do with them. I tasted one and the texture was a bit hard to chew and it had a bitter, slightly spicy taste so a salad was out for me. I rifled through my pantry a bit and found a quarter of a box of pasta and realized what I could do, thus bringing us to my dandelion pesto.
Dandelion Pesto Pasta
Bunch of dandelion greens
¼ cup olive oil
3 roughly chopped cloves of garlic
¼ cup soaked cashews
Pasta of your choice
Start off by bringing a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Dunk the dandelion greens into the boiling water for about 30 seconds and immediately put them into an ice bath. The boiling water will soften them up a bit and the ice bath will help them retain color and stop cooking.
Next, add your pasta to the same water and cook by box instructions. While the pasta is boiling, add the dandelion greens, olive oil, soaked cashews, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to a blender. It is best to soak the cashews overnight but hot water for 20-30 minutes will work in a pinch to soften them.
Blend on high until there are little to no chunks of cashews or greens. Drain pasta, reserving some of the water. Add pesto to the pasta with a little pasta water, mix, and serve.
This pasta comes together in about 20 minutes and the dandelion adds an astringent, peppery taste. I hope this recipe inspires you to see what you can find outside!