Eating Dandelions: Harvesting, Cleaning, and Cooking

Dandelions

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My mother dosed her family with generous amounts of dandelion greens as soon as she discovered their bright leaves poking up through the thatch of the back lawn.

One of nine children growing up during the Depression on a Vermont dairy farm, Mom regaled us with many stories of the wild-food foraging that supplemented the self-reliant family diet. Dandelions, the first fresh greens of spring, ranked high on her list of important foraged foods.

I inherited my mother’s dandelion fork, a simple wooden-handled tool with a steel shaft and a short, sharp fork at one end. Though sadly I misplaced the fork and bought a new one (much inferior), I continue her tradition.

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Native to Eurasia, this humble member of the aster family (Taraxacum officinale) has traveled far and wide. Cultures around the world have used every part of the dandelion as both nutritious food and powerful medicine. 

One of the plant’s common nicknames in French—pissenlit (pee-the-bed)—attests to dandelion’s use in traditional healing cultures as a valuable diuretic agent (rich in potassium).

Harvesting Dandelions

The trick to enjoying dandelion greens? Harvest them young with their underground crowns attached and clean them well. Choose a spot that hasn’t been sprayed or fertilized with agricultural chemicals or frequented by pets.

Harvest the spiky greens and their pale belowground crowns (which taste like artichoke hearts) as soon as you detect the tiny spiked leaves poking forth. Harvest the greens until the blossoms open (the unopened buds are yummy), after which the leaves become too bitter for most palates.

Angle your “weeding fork” down about an inch into the soil below the rosette of 3- to 6-inch greens, and sever the crown where it joins the root. Then pull the entire rosette from the ground. Shake it free of dirt and remove as many of last year’s slimy leaves as possible.

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Cleaning Dandelions

Pay rigorous attention to cleaning the grit and debris from inside the tightly formed crown. Swish the greens around in a deep pan through several changes of water. Then cut open the crowns without severing the leaves and scrape debris from each rosette before submerging the greens for a final rinse.

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Cooking with Dandelions

Although I add the tiniest dandelion greens to fresh salads, I like them best cooked with a couple of onions. I sauté chopped onions (and maybe a little garlic) in a bit of olive oil until they become translucent, then add the greens with a little rinse water clinging to them and steam until the greens are soft.

I also add dandelions to a spring-tonic soup that could include young nettles, parsley, spinach, kale, and chard cooked in well-seasoned chicken broth.

Also, a strong tea of dandelion blossoms used as a hair rinse adds shine and highlights to blond hair.

See recipes for dandelion wine, dandelion jelly, and more.

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In the Garden

The deep perennial taproots forage minerals and make them available for shallower-rooted crops. (Don’t let too many get started, though, and pull the blossoms off in the vegetable garden.)

In a lawn or field, the bright yellow flowers attract pollinators to the spring garden and provide an important early nectar source for many butterflies.

NOTE: Make sure that you can identify dandelions with certainty before you harvest them. If you’ve never eaten dandelions, prepare and eat a small amount before you begin harvesting in earnest. Never harvest dandelions from areas that have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals, such as a lawn.

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's re-learning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better healthier lives.

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Dandelion Greens

Love them gently boiled/steamed and garnished with olive oil and salt. I drink the remaining broth or add it to soup. My grandfather, a European immigrant, would keep us supplied with the greens during the season when I was young. While I do harvest some from my property each spring, I've found a reliable supply available nearly year round at the local Hannaford grocery store here in Maine so can enjoy them more frequently than I ever dreamed possible.

dandelions

When I was growing up my Mom would blanch the geeens, cook bacon,chop the bacon and the greens ,and both to mashed potatoes !!! Yummm!

Pancakes

When my kids were young, we would occasionally have smiley pancakes. Just mix up you batter, make a smiley face by putting dandelion flowers in the skillet, sunny side down and cover with batter. When the bubbles start popping and the edges start to dry, flip them over. You'll have a golden brown pancake with a bright yellow smiley face. They taste great, too.

My family eats the flowers

My family eats the flowers too. Pick them leaving no stem. Soak in salt water for an hour or so, rinse, pat dry, roll in flour & fry in butter. Just had my first batch of the season the other day.

Dandelion greens are

Dandelion greens are delicious. My dear mother used to hunt for them each spring. We lived in Maine woods and lived off land. We was more healthy than, than today.

Well, Kay, I can report I've

Well, Kay, I can report I've located and harvest my first dandelion greens. Off to a great season of foraging!

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