We define a weed as a plant in the wrong place, growing where it is unwanted. Dandelion has this reputation, yet I've always had a huge place in my heart for them. I have fond memories of picking them as a kid and watching magic happen as the seeds spread. It wasn't until I was reprimanded for it that I realized adults didn't really like the beautiful yellow flower. For some reason, they didn't want them shining in their boring green fields. I'm still searching for a good answer why. This is my love letter to the dandelion, in the hope that, if you don't already, you will come to love it too. So, one big question remains: can you eat dandelions?
Can You Eat Dandelions?
Dandelion is a powerful edible weed. Dandelion greens are one of the easiest things to identify and eat. They can be bitter, sure, but in colder weather they're not unlike arugula with a delicious peppery taste, making them perfect to saute or as a garnish on top of other food. Dandelion leaves have a ton of nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin A, Potassium, Beta Carotene, Magnesium, and antioxidants. The dandelion plant has all kinds of wellness uses, including lowering blood pressure and blood sugar. You can use them in all kinds of things such as salad, pesto, stir-fries, fritters, and soup or stews. In the spring, I like to eat them raw with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil, as a side to eggs and toast.
In spring, dandelions produce a cluster of buds. If you pick off the top flower head, you can gather a bunch more underneath it and this doesn't hurt the plant, as dandelions are incredibly resilient and will make more. If you gather enough buds, you can pickle them and make delicious and healthy dandelion capers!
The dandelion flower is the least bitter part of the plant, especially in spring. I have always wanted to make dandelion wine, but have never fermented anything before and I'm a little nervous to try. Someday I will though, and perhaps a mead or kombucha as well. For now, I make dandelion jelly and bread with dandelion flowers as decoration. I think their beautiful golden heads look so amazing in salads and cocktails.
The root can be harvested and cooked, or dried and used in dandelion tea. It is also very high in minerals but has a bitter quality. I personally love bitter flavors, and Fernet Branca is one of my favorite drinks. I wasn't surprised to find out that they use roasted dandelion root as one of their primary herbal ingredients!
Traditionally, all parts of the dandelion have been used for digestion issues as a diuretic, liver and kidney function, and to stimulate appetite. Eating dandelions is a great way to kick start your system in spring. Additionally, they have no poisonous look-alikes. The most common look-alike, Cat's Ear, is easy to tell apart. Cat's Ear branches as it flowers, whereas dandelions grow on one stem. Dandelions have hollow stems and toothed leaves (which is how it got the nickname Lion's tooth) and grow in a basal rosette.
Dandelions are so useful to us, and, in my opinion, are beautiful flowers. I really hope they gain a new reputation as the amazing plant that they are. So, can you eat dandelions? Absolutely. I truly hope you try eating dandelions if you haven't yet and fall in love with them as I have.