“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Growing up, I always heard adults talking about dandelions like they were an evil enemy. I couldn’t help but think their bright yellow color popping up all over after a long winter was heavenly. I never understood how they could criticize the cheery little bits of sunshine. Little did I know at the time they also held a hidden virtue. There is a lot to love about dandelions! They are actually a gift, a culinary treat.
Dandelions are not only edible, but they also hold nutrients. The whole plant is edible: the flower, the leaves and its roots. Dandelions are a superfood that are so full of vitamins and antioxidants that some believe that they are better for you than spinach or kale. One cup of dandelion greens has more calcium than a glass of milk. They also have vitamins B, C, A, E, and K, as well as zinc, iron, magnesium, and potassium. They are known to stabilize blood sugar, manage high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, detoxify the liver, and slow down aging.
Dandelions are easy to harvest. They are best harvested in the springtime. Their leaves get bitter as they age. If you have never tried foraging before, it is an easy way to start. If you do plan to harvest dandelions, be careful that they have not been sprayed with a chemical or fertilizer. It may not be a good idea to harvest them from your local city park or along roadsides, where they can get covered in dust. Remember to leave some for the bees. There are many ways to use dandelions. They are best used the same day they are picked. Prior to beginning, make sure you wash them thoroughly. The blossoms have a sweet flavor that is similar to honey. They make excellent syrup or wine. You can use the flowers as a garnish on salads, or desserts. They can be battered and fried in oil. Battered blossoms will be crunchy and have a savory taste.
Dandelion leaves are a little bitter. The leaves from plants that have not yet flowered are milder. They can be blanched and sautéed in oil with garlic. They can be eaten raw in salads, or used like lettuce on salads. The leaves can be used like spinach in dishes such as quiche, or added to quesadillas or as a nutritious pizza topping. They can also be made into pesto.
The roots can be made into coffee. It is a lot like chicory. The roots can also be made into an herbal tea.
There really is no limit to the uses—they are endless! A quick Google search will help you discover some great recipes. Here are a few recipes I would like to share. Enjoy!
• 1/2 c. oil
• 1/2 c. honey
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1 c. unbleached flour
• 1 c. dry oatmeal
• 1/2 c. dandelion flower petals (removed
from green flower base)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend oil and
honey and beat in two eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, oatmeal and dandelion flours. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes.
Dandelion blossom honey butter
• 1/4 c. dandelion blossoms measured after
being removed from stem
• 1/4 c. butter (unsalted is best)
• 3 Tbsp. honey
Allow butter to come to room temperature. Combine butter and honey, whip vigorously with a fork. Stir in dandelion petals. Store in a covered jar in the fridge for up to three months. Use on homemade bread, cornbread, or muffins!
• 1 1/2 cups flour
• 1 c. rolled oats
• 1 Tbsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 c. milk
• 1/4 c. coconut oil, warmed to a liquid
• 1/4 c. honey
• 1 c. dandelion flower petals
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt and 1/4 c. sugar in bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, honey and coconut oil. Whisk and mix well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, then stir gently until mixed. Do not over mix. Fold in flower petals.
Grease muffin pan or line with muffin papers. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Sprinkle tops with remaining sugar. Bake the muffins at 400 degrees for 15-20 min.
• 3 c. fresh dandelions
• 3-5 bags of your favorite tea (green tea
Cut off stems and leave the flowers, then add them to a jar or pitcher. Add 7-10 c. boiling hot water. Add 3-5 tea bags of your favorite tea (green tea works well). Steep 10-15 minutes. Strain. Add a natural sweetener like honey (3 Tbsp.) Drink warm or store in the refrigerator for iced tea.
Jody Rae is a social worker who lives in both Britt and Ely, MN. She spends most of her time on the water or in the woods, where she is always planning her next adventures, both near and far.