Dandelions – Friend or Foe?

It is springtime, and with the onset of longer days, warmer weather, we inevitably get dandelions infesting our lawns,  and gardens.  Whether you like them or hate them for what they are, you must admit they are adaptable, hardy and proliferate quickly. Many of us consider Dandelions a weed but consider the following facts before plucking them from your cottage.

Dandelion Facts:

  • Dandelion is a common meadow herb of the Asteraceae or sunflower family.
  • There are about 100 species of dandelion, and all are beneficial.
  • The name dandelion comes from the French “dent de lion” – lion’s tooth, which refers to the serrated leaves.
  • The dandelion flower opens to greet the morning and closes in the evening to go to sleep.
  • Dandelion flowers do not need to be pollinated to form seed.
  • Every part of the dandelion is useful: root, leaves, flower. It can be used for food, medicine and dye for coloring.
  • Seed can travel 8 kilometers (5 miles) before it finally reaches the ground.
  • Animals such as birds, insects and butterflies consume nectar or seed of dandelion.
  • Dandelions are high in calcium, iron, and vitamins A,C, and K
  • Dandelions have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for over a thousand years.

The Benefits of Dandelions:

There are many benefits that dandelions have yielded over centuries in the areas of medicine and healthy eating. Dandelion is a proven antioxidant that also lowers blood sugar, but it may also be useful in treating jaundice, fighting blood pressure, cirrhosis, edema, urinary disorders. eczema, and acne. Dandelions are highly nutritious as an ingredient in salads, and its roots show ever-increasing possibilities in the fight against cancer

Consuming Dandelions:

Now that we have listed numerous potential benefits of Dandelions we need to figure out how to consume them. The good news is that you can eat every single part of a dandelion. You can make dandelion wine, fry up the flowers into fritters, make coffee and tea drinks out of the stem and seeds, and salads from the greens. If you can’t find them at your local grocery store you can probably go out and pick them yourself. Just remember to avoid picking areas where a weed killer may have been sprayed, and avoid areas such as freeways, train track or other areas where contamination could be present.

What to expect when consuming Dandelions:

Leaves –They are most delectable in the early spring before flowering.  As they are exposed to more sunlight and their bitterness increases.  I suggest picking young leaves and adding them to salads, or try grinding the leaves and turning them into a pesto If you don’t like them in your salad consider steaming the leaves, sautéeing or boiling them and incorporated into casseroles and soups. 
Buds – The key to eating dandelion buds is getting them early when they are still tight little buttons close to the base of the plant.  I like them best when the sepals have just unfolded.  I pinch off the sepals from the base of the bud because they are a little bitter.  Buds can be pickled, added to sautés, soups, etc.
Flowers – What most of us think of as a single dandelion flower is actually hundreds of flowers growing together on a single base.  Dandelion flowers are high in Vitamin A and have a surprisingly sweet and mild flavor.  The base of the flowering head and especially the green sepals (they look like tiny leaves) are bitter.  You can easily pull the flowers off and use them straight or in recipes.  I find them a little dry when sprinkled heavily on salads or other raw dishes so I prefer to add them to cooked foods like quiche, pancakes, muffins and fritters.
Roots – The Dandelion plant has a long carrot-like taproot, so therefore dig deep to extract the whole root.  Wash the roots, scrape off the outside peel. After the root is peeled I slice it up just like you would a carrot, and boil it, the flavour is slightly bitter.

Now that you have learned about Dandelions I suggest you try these recipes:

Dandelion Biscuits

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or chives
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup dandelion flowers – pulled off the base
  1. Preheat oven to 450. 
  2. Let butter soften, once soft combine ingredients, batter should be moist and sticky but not smooth. 
  3. Use a spoon to form about ¼ cup scoops.  Place a couple inches apart.  Bake until the bottom is browned and the edges are just starting to brown, about 12 minutes.

Spicy Dandelion Greens

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound dandelion greens, torn into 4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Clean & Soak dandelion greens in a large bowl of cold water with 1 teaspoon salt for 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt. Cook greens until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until chilled.
  3. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onion and red pepper flakes until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic cook another minute more. Increase heat to medium-high and add dandelion greens. Continue to cook and stir until liquid is evaporated, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Sprinkle greens with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Dandelion Wine

  • 2 quarts yellow dandelion blossoms, well rinsed
  • 1 gallon boiling water
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package wine yeast
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon slice
  1. Place dandelion blossoms in the boiling water, and allow to stand for 2 days. Remove and discard the blossoms, and let the water cool.
  2. Stir in the sugar, orange slices, and lemon slice and boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Pour into a sterilized fermenter
  4. After cooling to room temperature, add yeast and attach a fermentation lock.
  5. Let the wine ferment in a cool area until the bubbles stop, 10 to 14 days.
  6. Siphon the wine off the wine and rack for another 2 months prior to bottling.
  7. Age the wine 3 to 6 months for best flavor.
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