Christine Burns Rudalevige’s morning haul of dandelion greens and buds. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

As my unkempt flower beds, my scraggly, dandelion-filled lawn and my two self-reliant house plants attest, I don’t spend much time on botanical capers.

But I do love culinary capers (those salty green-brown bits that give a burst of flavor to piccata and puttanesca sauces) enough to learn that capparis spinosa, aka Flinders rose, is the perennial plant best known in the food world for its immature edible flower buds (called capers) and eventual fruit (called caperberries) that are salted or pickled and served as part of many Mediterranean dishes. The capparis spinosa plant grows in Italy, Morocco and Spain, as well as Asia and Australia. But not Maine.

That fact brings me back to my scraggly, dandelion-filled lawn. As a beekeeper myself, I know the pollen on dandelion flowers is some of the first to become available to pollinators in springtime, so I leave them be for the most part. But because I don’t bother with pesticides in my yard, I do take a couple of salad bowls full of greens for myself as my Italian grandmothers taught me.

I was out picking an allotment when the crowns of greens had just started to dot the part of the lawn the dogs don’t use as an outhouse. I had caught them full of buds that had not yet sprouted stalks. I’d typically just keep them attached through the picking, washing and salad-making process as they add a bit of meaty chew to the dish. But these crowns were fully studded with buds.

Hey Siri! What can you do with a quarter cup of dandelion buds?

Make capers, was the answer to that internet search.


Brined dandelion bed “capers” will keep in the refrigerator for about one month. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The buds, aka buttons, need to be fully closed, and it’s best to carefully pick off any leaves at the bottom of the bud as they can get a little slimy in the brine. These float in water so getting all the grit they grow in off the buds is a fairly easy process. Drop them in a bowl of water and give them a good swish. The dirt falls to the bottom, and you use a spider or small strainer to lift the buds off the top of the water. Repeat the process with fresh water until there is no more grit in the bottom of the bowl.

Combine 1/4 cup of capers, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt in a small, clean jar. Cover the jar and place it in the fridge for a week. Boom, dandelion capers! The smaller ones are best used whole in sauces or chopped up in salad dressing and tartar sauce. The larger ones can be dropped into hot vegetable oil, where they “bloom” into lovely, crispy, briny garnishes for salads.

Christine Burns Rudalevige’s Pork Picatta with brined dandelion capers and sautéed lemons. On the side are lightly dressed dandelion greens garnished with fried dandelion capers. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Pork Piccata with Dandelion Capers

To make the capers, place 1/4 cup clean dandelion buds in a jar with 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Cure them, covered, in the refrigerator for a week before using. They will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Serves 4

4 (about 1 pound) thinly cut, boneless pork chops
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 lemon, sliced into 8 pieces
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons dandelion capers, rinsed


Use a meat mallet to pound the pork chops to an even 1/8-inch thickness.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a pie plate. Dredge the pounded pork chops through the flour mixture to coat.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter begins to foam, place the cutlets into the pan. Cook until the underside is browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the cutlets over and cook until the chops are fully cooked, 2-3 minutes more. Transfer the cutlets to a warm plate.

Arrange the lemons in the pan to brown slightly, 1 minute. Flip over and brown on the other side, 1 minute. Transfer lemons to the plate with the cutlets.

Add wine or chicken broth to the pan. As the liquid simmers use a whisk to dislodge the brown bits from the skillet. Add lemon juice and capers. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the sauce to thicken it.

Pour sauce over cutlets and lemon and serve immediately.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the former editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at:

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