If you are a regular reader of our website posts, you probably know that we love re-using, recycling and not letting things go to waste. So let’s consider the humble or pesky, depending on your point of view, dandelion.
When I was growing up I loved its happy yellow colour. Then when it went to the fluffy stage it was great for blowing on and watching it float away. Somewhere during life came that transition of being told it was a ‘weed’. I suspect for many of us the dandelion is our first introduction to the world of supposed bad plants.
It has taken until my middle ages to come full circle again and realise the potential of dandelions. It helps that I finally have my own garden, dandelions and all. Like most people I dutifully pulled them out. And like most people never quite got the root out, so they came back again the next year.
I am great believer if something likes to make itself well known, there may be a reason. Interestingly, I recently watched a YouTube video (Dandelions are a great indicator of…) which gave me the impetus for this post. It was about turning over fertilised and grazed land into a permaculture garden. In it the owner, who had been working on his garden for many years, said that dandelions are an indicator of something lacking in the soil.
There is a saying, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’. I’ve taken this attitude with dandelions, especially since I learned they are a good source of food.
We’re into foraging here at Pumpjack & Piddlewick. Walnuts, mushrooms, blackberries, wild asparagus and garlic to name a few. Once you get into foraging, you kind of can’t help but learn about other, natural foods that you can easily find. Like dandelions.
They are a natural food source for salads, but oh so much more. Dandelions can be made into a soothing oil and have medicinal properties. You can make coffee or tea from them. The whole plant is edible, from flower to leaves and root, each providing different options.
Substitute dandelion greens for basil in a pesto. You can add them to a sauté, stir fry or soup. Essentially any recipe that calls for a leafy green, say kale, swiss chard, collard greens, or other ‘greens’ you can substitute dandelion greens. (Dandelion greens have a sort of rocket leaf flavour.)
Use the flowers to make into an infused iced tea. Pretty too. Or add to lemonade. Add the flowers to jelly / jello for a pretty spring summer treat. A recipe I can recommend is Dandelion Beet Chocolate Bars (vegan, gluten free).
They can also be added to the oil of your choice (about 1/2 to 1/2) and make a balm for cracked or chapped skin.
Now let’s get on to more about the root. It has a sort of chicory taste. Best harvested in spring as as they get older and larger they do get a bit more bitter. But in saying bitter, think watercress or endive.
It is rather similar to a carrot in look and texture. If large you can peel the skin off with a knife. If smaller, steam or boil for a couple minutes and then the skin comes off easily. Once peeled, you can then go on to cook the same way you would parsnip or carrots.
You could even have a go at making dandelion soda or ‘root beer’.
For more information, recommendations and recipes, here are some of my favourite websites. And as you can see there are lots and lots and lots of options. Enjoy!
Homespun Seasonal Living – What to do with Dandelions
The Kitchn – 10 dandelion greens recipes
The Nerdy Farm Wife – 12 Things to do with Dandelion flowers
The Prairie Homestead – 16 Dandelion Recipes
Moon and Spoon and Yum – 24 Dandelion Recipes (includes health benefits)
Grow Forage Cook Ferment – 50+ Dandelion recipes (covers from soap to food)
PS. If you are going to have a go at eating or making something from dandelions, be certain they have not been sprayed with any chemicals. Best to harvest from your own property, where you are certain to know if there has been any pesticides used or not.