Are you looking for how to forage dandelions and what to do with them? This article covers all you need to know, including recipes for using this common, but underrated herb!
Most of us think of dandelions as an obnoxious and persistent weed in our yards, but did you know dandelion seeds were intentionally brought to colonial America for propagation for food and medicine?
In recent years, activists – rightly – have done their best to redeem the reputation of the dandelion, reminding us that they are one of the bee’s first sources of food in the spring. And we’re all sympathetic to bees – we can’t live without them!
But dandelions are also a good source of spring nutrition for us humans.
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for dandelions. It seemed like they grew everywhere when I was little, and my sister and I spent a lot of our spring playtime picking bouquets for mom.
Looking back, I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled about us bringing her “weeds” to beautify the house, but I do remember her sticking bunches of them in glasses of water in the kitchen, and one time sticking them in her shoelaces as she sat on the porch and we brought her our dandelion treasures one at a time. I though that was a particularly brilliant way to decorate your shoes at the time. 😉
But now I know that dandelions aren’t weeds, but they’re much, much more than sunshine yellow flowers that plague suburban lawns.
Why forage dandelions?
There is always value in knowing how to source food from places other than the local grocery store. Knowing how to use what the earth provides naturally could benefit us if ever an emergency arose.
Foraged edible plants like dandelions can dramatically increase your natural vitamin and mineral intake, especially when they’re growing in non-farmed soil which hasn’t been depleted.
Always make sue to harvest dandelions from areas not treated with chemicals. This can complicate dandelion foraging as many lawns abundant with dandelions are also abundant with anti-dandelion chemicals.
Dandelions can also have a positive impact on your grocery spending. While I’m not suggesting that foraging is the key to saving money on groceries, it can absolutely be an effective layer – especially with a green as easily harvested as dandelions.
Dandelion has been used for centuries as a cleansing herb for ailments ranging from skin disorders, all the way to hepatitis. (disclaimer, I am not suggesting treating anything with dandelions, nor do I have the credentials to do so. I am only relaying past uses, and promoting dandelions as an excellent source of nutrition).
Dandelions are some of the most nutritious greens you can eat, boasting more antioxidants, vitamin c, A, and K than kale or spinach, and more calcium than milk! I personally think the green part of the plant is an excellent addition to my morning smoothie routine.
And, the entire plant is edible.
How to Harvest Dandelions
Let’s start with the leaves, which have a taste similar to spicy arugula.
For foraging dandelion greens, look for young plants, and harvest with scissors or a knife in early spring, and then again in the fall, before they flower, as older plants tend to be tougher and more bitter.
Young dandelion leaves can be used in salads or on sandwiches.
Try recipes like:
- Dandelion Salad with Pecan Vinaigrette
- Dandelion Salad with caramelized Golden Beets
- Dandelion Pesto
For mature dandelion greens, which as I said, can be quite tough and bitter, blanch and sauté in oil to use in recipes such as:
- Dig up and wash dandelion roots
- Lay them in an airy place to dry
- Grind very fine in a food processor
- Place ground dandelion roots in a coffee pot or french press and brew like normal.
This will be a quite bitter coffee, so be sure to have your favorite creamer/sweetener on hand.
Dandelion coffee will give you a gentler version of the digestive benefits of coffee.
Ground dandelion root can also be capsulized to use for therapeutic benefits.
I remember the first time my younger sister and I tried our hand at frying dandelion blossoms. It wasn’t a smashing success, but that was partly because we thought they were going to taste like fried mushrooms. Shrooms they are not, but delicious in their own right.
Choose bright, healthy looking blooms to harvest.
Dandelion petals are great for garnishing desserts, but one of the most common ways to prepare them is the aforementioned fried dandelion flowers, done by dipping in tempura batter and deep or shallow-fat frying.
Some recipes to try:
- Wild Dandelion Quiche
- Dandelion Fritters
- Dandelion Blossom Honey Butter
- Lemon and Dandelion Biscuits
- Dandelion Lemon Bars
- Dandelion Jelly
Other Uses for Dandelions
Wild dandelions aren’t just for food! As we mentioned above, they were brought to America for both food and medicine.
Dandelions can be used to make variety of supplements for your healthy lifestyle.
So will you still look at dandelions and see an annoying yard weed?
It’s hard not to get annoyed at things growing where they shouldn’t – in fact, a friend used to say the definition of a weed is a plant growing where you don’t want it to, no matter how useful it may be otherwise.
I like that definition. And especially since we live in a dry area where dandelions are a little more scarce than they were when I was a child, living in Illinois and Tennessee, I’m more than happy to see dandelions growing wild in areas I’m not cultivating for other purposes.