Greeks love to eat horta! Horta are wild greens that are usually dark and leafy. One of my dad’s favorite horta are the red stem dandelion greens. And not only him, but most Greeks, including my uncle Nick, who picked these for me from his bountiful garden! We call them radikia.
He sent me home with seeds, and told me that the original plants he has grown were actually from seeds given to him by my father. He even taught me how and when to collect my own seeds from my plants, so that I could grow my garden again next year! This was a very educational visit indeed!
While they are called dandelion, they are a tenor dandelions at all, but rather in the same family of chicory. They are native to Italy, where they are called cicoria, but they grow around the Mediterranean.
They are a bitter green. My mother had them on weekly rotation at our home. And as a child, these were by far my least favorite because of that bitterness. However, as an adult, my palate appreciates their bitter yet peppery bite, as well as the vast amount of health benefits that they offer!
They are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, antioxidants, potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
They taste the best when they are picked when the leaves are still young and tender. If you wait, they will be better boiled or even sautéed. I find that they pair well as a side dish with just about anything.
You can eat them stand alone in a salad with olive oil, a splash of red wine or apple cider vinegar and salt. Mix a few leaves into any other salad to add variety of flavor and texture. Or eat them boiled with olive oil, lemon juice and a side of feta cheese. My uncle put a few leaves into the ham sandwiches we made, and they were out of this world!
I always keep the water in which I boiled the radikia because it helps with detoxification. Squeeze some lemon juice and add a pinch of salt to it. Drink it warm or cold. I keep it in a large jar and gently reheat it or simply sip it cold. It has a lovely flavor!
Let me know if you give them a try!