Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are everywhere now! In my lawn, sneaking through the crack in the pavement, contributing color and nutrients to my salad bowl and even taking up a page in the book I’m reading. While so many despise its strong survival skills that can lead to a dandelion carpet in just a few seasons, dandelion has so much to offer to our food supply and health-keeping toolkit.
As Euell Gibbons, renowned wild edibles expert said: “All parts are edible.” This is especially true of the dandelion. Roots are used in herbal infusions, and buds, flowers and leaves are excellent salad additions. Wild greens, in general, have higher nutrient values than those of the top domesticated greens such as kale!
Some nutritional and healing benefits from the various plant parts are:
- Diuretic, high concentration of potassium, both helpers for high blood pressure – Leaves
- Liver tonifier & cleanser, gentle laxative, detoxifier, rich potassium & calcium content – Root
- Plentiful amounts of Vitamins A, B, C and D as well as potassium & calcium – Flower Buds
When you head out to gather some of these gems for your plate, be sure to gather from areas that are chemical (herbicide, pesticides) –free, for a least three years. It’s also important to correctly identify any wild-gathered plants to ensure their safe edibility. Using a comprehensive and accurate guidebook to wild edibles and taking classes can assist you in learning what to look for on your wild food foraging. I recommend Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by John Kallas, Ph.D.
The photo below shows Dandelion (top) and Cat’s Ear below it. The leaves look very similar but you notice a textural difference: Cat’s Ear leaves are much thicker than the papery Dandelion’s.
People often turn their noses up at the assumed bitterness of the plant’s offerings but when they are gathered with awareness of the growing patterns, this less than desirable taste can be avoided. Here are a few gathering tips to minimize bitterness:
- Collect during the rapid-growth phase: when moisture is plentiful and temperatures aren’t real warm. Bitterness increases when the plant is exposed to too much sun and when the moisture decreases. So plants in partially shaded areas tend to be less bitter.
- Eat only the top 4” of the stalk beneath the bud or flower.
- Refrigerate shortly after harvesting to retain perkiness and nutrients. Alternately, you can immerse greens (leaves) in cold water until you have finished taking your haul.
Welcome Dandelion into your kitchen and enjoy free food and outstanding nutrition.