Dandelions—Eat ’Em; Don’t Kill ’Em!

Dandelions—Eat ’Em; Don’t Kill ’Em!

They’re the whole plant deal. Not only are dandelion leaves delicious and wholesome in your salads and soups, but the blossoms (wine) and roots (coffee) are also great sources of health-giving nutrients.

Why not?

  • they’re high in calcium
  • they’re a good source of iron, zinc, and potassium
  • they’re filled with vitamins A, C, K, and the Bs
  • they’re ubiquitous!

Harvest ’em!

First order of business: stay clear of dandelions if you’re not absolutely sure they haven’t been exposed to fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or any other chemical contaminants.

Best spots

  • meadows, pastures, open spaces
  • areas cleared of wild vegetation—dandelions thrive in cultivated soil
  • crevices—as the wind carries their seeds, some hit walls and fences, drop, and take root; they’re small and can settle into tight spaces
  • shadier areas, where growth is delayed, harbour younger, less bitter leaves

Best times

  • springtime, before or as the dandelion flowers bloom
  • late fall—after the first frost, the plant’s bitterness diminishes
  • if picked between these times, blanch the leaves to temper bitterness
  • sunny days—flowers close during rainy, cloudy weather so they’re harder to spot

Best to avoid

  • areas where dangerous chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides may have drained into the soil—even your own lawn if chemicals might have been used on it
  • roadsides that could be contaminated by exhaust fumes and winter salting
  • parkland where dogs and other animals run free; always wash leaves thoroughly, twice

For the leaves

  • pick young, tender leaves (they’re less bitter)
  • use in salads and soups instead of spinach

Tip

Toss and dress ’em
  • For salads
  • If picked when their shiny, green leaves first appear in spring, dandelion leaves add a sharp zing to salads. However, the word bitter dominates descriptions of their taste.
  • To mute bitterness, recipes recommend blending the leaves with other vegetables—lettuce, endive, and shallots—then adding nuts, cheese, and vinaigrette dressing.
  • The crisp leaves also deliver a sandwich with bite when placed between buttered whole wheat slices and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
For vegetable and pasta dishes
  • Blanching the leaves in boiling, slightly salted water tempers the taste when they’re really bitter.
  • Sautéeing them for two to four minutes more in olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed garlic produces a result similar in flavour and texture to spinach.
  • Tossing the cooked dandelion leaves into vegetable and pasta dishes adds a fresh twist to everyday menus.

For the roots

  • choose mature plants (they have bigger roots)
  • drive a pitchfork firmly into the ground, avoiding the root, tipping backward to lift and loosen the soil, then grip below the leaves and pull up gently
  • trim, clean, chop, and store in fridge
  • steep for tea or roast and use as a coffee substitute (see alive.com for our delicious Dandelion Cinnamon- Spiked Iced Coffee recipe)

Roast and sip ’em!

  • Spring dandelion roots are best for making tea or coffee. Dig them before the aerial portion of the plant develops.
  • Scrub the root clean, split lengthways, and steam for 5 minutes or so to congeal the root sap.
  • Cool and chop into small pieces and place in a 300 F (150 C) oven with the door slightly ajar to allow moisture to evaporate.
  • When they’re a nice chocolate brown and crackling dry, remove and cool.
  • To make your beverage, grind in a coffee grinder and use 1 tsp (5 mL) per cup (250 mL) of boiling water.

For the blossoms

  • pick when they’re bright yellow and young
  • use them fresh—without the stems—in salads, for wine, or sautéed in butter

You might also like

Wildlife Wednesday: Sumatran Tigers

Trick or Treat? Your Chocolate in Disguise

‘Tis the Season … for Farmers’ Markets!