Dandelion Field - © 2024 - Mother Earth News

Dandelion Season: Celebrate Spring’s Fave Yellow Fellow!

Everybody hates them in their lawn and garden. But folks in bygone days absolutely loved Dandelions. For a whole host of reasons. Not the least of which was, they were one of the most-available free-for-the-forraging, greens available…

Dandelion Wine - © 2024 - The Farmer's Almanack

A versatile veggie

A culinary curiosity

I remember my Dad’s mom gently picking leaves from the first dandelions of spring for salad greens. She said they were a lovely bitter veggie, not unlike chicory. The ‘bitter’ family includes a wide range of greens, including kale, mustard greens, collards, turnip greens, kale, mustard greens, collards, turnip greens, broccoli rabe, radicchio, chicory, and endive, radicchio, and endive. But the only one you can probably still find in the wild is the humble dandelion…

Health benefits

According to Macrovegan.org, “They promote great skin (beta-carotene), a strong nervous system (folate), healthy blood clotting (vitamin K) and contain phytonutrients shown to support eye health.” And they support your system overall acting as a mild diuretic.

What you can make

Dandelions are extremely versatile. Our foremothers (and a few fathers) used them not only as salad greens, but to make beverages, stew like spinach, fry or braise like endive or raddiccio, or use like baby Bok Choi in Asian dishes.

The Leaves

… Are used mainly as salad greens, often in salad mixes with other delicate ‘lettuces’, such as Arugula, Watercress or Mâche (Lamb’s Lettuce). But they’re also enjoyed wilted in soups and stews, and as a braised side dish (like spinach). You can also use them on sandwiches like you would any lettuce.

The Flowers

These beautiful bright yellow flowers are prized by herbal dabblers for making a therapeutic tea. And generations of folks of British extraction have used them as he flavour base for Dandelion Wine. (See photo, left.) It takes a lot of blossoms to make just 1 gal. / 4 L of the delicate tipple. That’s a lot of stooping and plucking… But Dandelion Wine devotees say it’s worth it!

The Roots

Herbal medicine practitioners have harvested dandelion roots. They’re dried and ground to make therapeutic teas, or for use in traditional remedies.

The Crowns

The crown is the part of the veggie where the leaves and flower stems come together at the root. It can be used in a variety of ways including braising, stir frying and as a soup or stew veggie. Think of them as similar to Raddiccio or Endive. Or more specifically, an analogue to baby Bok Choi.

Where to get them

After tantalizing you with all those possibilities for using Dandelions, I’m sorry to say, your roster of safe foraging sources may be limited. There’s always the great outdoors – wild areas and greenbelts. And if your own yard is fenced and you don’t spray any pesticides, your dandelions should be safe to eat.

But note what your neighbours may be spraying, and keep track of which way the wind blows. And be aware of other common sources of contamination:

  • Public lands such as parks, roadsides or highway centre medians may be treated with pesticides. Don’t risk it.
  • Country roadsides may also be sprayed with pesticides, or may have caught overspray from farmers’ operations.
  • Dandelions growing adjacent to construction sites may be contaminated with dust or groundwater runoff from building materials.

Your rule of thumb should be, if it might be contaminated, don’t pick it.

When to get them

Always favour the first Dandelions of the season. They’re like any other young, tender leafy veggie: Tender, mild and as sweet as they’ll ever be. Dandelions become stronger in flavour and more bitter as the season wears on and they’re exposed to more sun and heat as they grow.

You can use the leaves and flowers on into summer, if you wish. But be mindful that, at some point, the leaves may be just be too bitter to eat.

The iconic yellow blossoms should be picked as soon as they bloom. And use them as soon as possible after picking. Use only the flower petals…

My take

Imagine! A FREE veggie in these times of stratospheric produce prices… Just Google: ‘cooking with dandelio0ns’ to open the door to a universe of possibilities!

The humble dandelion is one of the most underrated and underappreciated veggies available to day. It’s taken a brutal hit, reputation-wise, as a lawn killer. And it’s a crying shame that this beautiful flower should have been demonized in the name of suburbification.

But I hold out hope that folks will revive the popularity of the dandelion, restoring it to its deserved place of honour among the leafy greens!

~ Maggie J.