Hairy catsear (Hypochoeris radicata), or false dandelions as they are commonly known, originate from Europe. They have certainly made themselves comfortable here in the US though, and are mostly regarded as an invasive or noxious weed. Although they look similar to a common dandelion, you can easily tell the difference between the two through their leaves and flower stalks. Hairy catsear has hairy leaves, unlike common dandelion’s smooth. The common dandelion also has only one flower stalk which is hollow, unlike catsear’s branched flower stalk.
Tender young leaves of catsear have been part of the Mediterranean diet for a very long time, and recent studies have shown the leaves to be high in polyphenols. I haven’t found much information specifically on the edibility of catsear flowers. Many references say the entire plant is edible, but I leave you with a warning that I am not 100% sure. Are the flowers of hairy catsear high in lecithin like those of common dandelion? I don’t know. Also of note is that sap from this plant will stain your hands and clothing. So be prepared.
The video above was a bit unfinished, but the sea swallowed my videorecorder while out beachcombing…so this will be it for videos for awhile. It’s a bummer to lose the camcorder, but I will keep posting photos while figuring out how to replace my $234 machine. Thanks goes out to the Bouwsma’s for their hospitality and encouragement during my stay here in Portland! It’s always nice to share good food with good friends.
False Dandy Balls
1 c false dandelion/catsear flower petals
1/2 c unbleached white flour
1/4 c onions, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, finely diced
1/4 t dried basil
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried hot pepper mix
salt & pepper to taste
milk, enough to make stiff batter
oil for frying
Remove false dandelion/catsear petals from flower base by pinching tightly between your thumb and pointer fingers. While applying pressure roll the flower base between your fingers.This allows the petals to fall below. Once you have your false dandelion/catsear petals, mix all ingredients. Add milk until you have a stiff batter. Fry in oil – I like to use grapeseed oil – until golden brown.