One of the most common and most nutritious wild edibles is right under our feet!
You’ve, no doubt, heard about dandelion wine. But have you heard about all the other ways that you can use dandelions? Or about how amazingly nutritious they are?
Believe it or not, the very same weed that plagues your lawn was grown as a food (and medicinal) crop for centuries in Europe and Asia. It was so important to the early colonists that they brought dandelions (on purpose!) with them to North America. As a result, dandelions became a staple food for many pioneers. Later, they were a survival food during the Great Depression when food was scarce and expensive.
Now that food is so abundant, we think of them only as weeds. But dandelions are actually are a tremendous blessing in disguise.
For starters, dandelions are a perfect plant for beginning foragers since the plants are so common and there are no poisonous look-alikes. For any foraging that you do, please use at least one field-guide to make sure you’re identifying your plants properly. Better yet, use two! You’ll also want to avoid picking dandelions on treated lawns (to avoid eating the herbicides and pesticides).
While foraging is a popular trend these days, it’s always something I’ve been interested in. And, even more so now that hubby and I have embarked on our new nomadic lifestyle. We love the idea of being able to supplement our diets with locally provided truly natural foods!
Dandelion Nutrition Information & Uses:
- has more iron and calcium than spinach, and more beta carotene than carrots.
- contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, biotin, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, copper, manganese and inositol.
Harvest dandelion leaves for use in salads or as cooked greens (like you would spinach). They’re tastiest when picked in either early spring (before the outside temperature gets hot) or late fall (after the first hard frost). You’ll want to harvest leaves from plants that have not yet flowered or they’ll be tough and bitter. Tea can be made from the leaves at any time in the season.
Dandelion Root is reportedly one of the safest and most popular home remedies. The root decoction is a tonic that has a reputation for strengthening your whole body system. It’s also known for cleansing and reducing swelling in the liver and helping to get rid of gallstones. It helps with jaundice and indigestion.
Tea made of the root and leaves act as a gentle diuretic, helping your kidneys cleanse your blood and recycle nutrients (without removing the potassium from your system).
Dandelions are also supposed to be good for your bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines.
The leaf’s white milky sap has a reputation for removing warts, moles, pimples, calluses and sores. It’s also supposed to soothe bee stings and blisters.
Dandelion roots can be harvested at any time, but are best when the plant is dormant (fall to spring). Dandelions often grow in very close proximity to other plants, so just make sure that the root you take home is from the dandelion plant you identified. Use the roots in soups, teas, steamed,roasted or sautéed.
Dandelion flowers contain antioxidants. They are the most tender when used early in their bloom cycle (when the petals are still yellow). The flowers and blooms can be cooked in stir fries, pickled, battered and fried, an ingredient in bakery, to make a sunny tasting sweet syrup, or to make wine. If using the flowers, only use the yellow part of the flower (the green part is bitter).
I’m just getting started with dandelions, so we’ll have to take this adventure in recipes together. So far, I’ve taken the easy route by mostly just using the greens in tossed salads. I’ve also been enjoying a nice hot tea simply by steeping chopped dandelion leaves in hot water.
Most recently, I tried a simple Summer Cucumber Dandelion Salad. It was very easy and tasty. Just slice a cucumber into thin discs. Place them in a bowl along with thinly sliced sweet onion (like Vidalia) and julienned dandelion leaves. Stir in just enough sour cream or plain yogurt to make a dressing. Salt and Pepper to taste. (See photo below.)
Here are a few other dandelion recipes that you might have fun with:
- Clara’s Depression Era Recipe for Dandelion Salad
- Dandelion Flower Bread
- Dandelion Syrup
- Pickled Dandelion Buds
- And of course, search on “Dandelion Soup Recipes” for a host of different possibilities!
**If you have favorite recipes, please don’t be bashful! Share them so that we can all enjoy them too!