Spring is in the air, bringing with it new life to the the trees, the flowers, and yes, the weeds. For as long as I can remember, weeds were always a bad thing – a pesky garden invader that must be eradicated by any means necessary! I never thought much of it and grew up believing that yes, all weeds were not only created equal, but that they all needed to be diligently removed from the yard “before they take over.”
Fast-forward to today and I now know that no, all weeds are not created equal. Not only that, but many weeds are actually used for their medicinal purposes, and can even be eaten! One such weed is the dandelion; those pretty little round, globe-like yellow flowers that pop their heads up around this time of year. I only remember them from my childhood, growing up in Chicago. I don’t ever remember seeing any during the 10+ years that I lived in South Florida (yeah, they’re pretty obsessed with their manicured, polished lawns down there ;)), and I’m now seeing them in lawns all over our new neighborhood here in Toronto, because the city (and the whole province, I believe) have stopped spraying pesticides on public spaces.
The technical term for dandelions is Taraxacum officinale – anytime you see ‘officinale’ in the name, it means it’s a medicinal herb – imagine that! Dandelion also has many culinary uses as well, as the entire plant is edible – the flowers can be pan-fried, added to dishes like eggs, or made into syrup, the greens are used in salads or sautéed, even the roots can be used to make a coffee-like drink!
Nutritionally, dandelions are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They have the highest vitamin A content of all greens! Medicinally, they are a good diuretic, a blood-detoxifier, good for liver function, and can also be used to treat digestive disorders. Quite a long list for what seems like just a pesky little weed!
To read more about the health and nutritional benefits of dandelions, visit this link.
But we’re not really here to talk about why dandelions are good for us; we’re here to discuss how we can incorporate them into our diet! This week, Mr. B and I tried a few recipes using both the leaves and the flower buds, and I must say, I’m really liking all of this edible weeds business! As we sat down to eat each dish, we both reveled in the fact that we’d just literally picked this wild plant out of our own backyard…because it’s just there…growing…on its own…without any help or effort from either of us. Amazing!
One easy, quick way to use dandelions is just by adding it to your salad. We just made our regular salad, using a little less romaine lettuce than we usually do, and added some young dandelion greens, that we chopped up into 2-inch pieces. The greens gave the salad a slightly peppery kick, which we both enjoyed very much.
We also made dandelion fritters (pictured above) by dipping the flower heads into a batter of flour, milk, and egg, then pan-frying them in a skillet. We drizzled them with honey and enjoyed a quick, sweet mid-morning snack 🙂 I found the recipe at this link, if you want to try it. I also added some honey and cinnamon to the batter (not in original recipe). You can also go for savory, instead of sweet, and add salt and pepper, garlic, hot pepper, and any other spices you like.
Once we got a little better acquainted with the idea of eating this weed, we then attempted to use it in a main dish for dinner. I improvised what I think was the tastiest meal I’d eaten in a really long time! But I may be biased 😉 I chopped up some greens and sautéed them with some garlic, frozen spinach, mushrooms, a splash of soy sauce, and some chopped cashews. This. Was. Awesome. For my original recipe, follow this link: Dandelion Greens & Spinach Stir-Fry (pictured below)
We also added dandelions to our breakfast in a baked omelet. I love baked omelets and frittatas (way more than the traditional folded omelet) so I couldn’t wait to try this! We used unopened flower buds and some chopped greens, along with onions, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese. All I can say is YUM! The recipe is up at this link: Dandelion Greens & Buds Baked Omelet (pictured below)
One night, we made two different dishes with the greens for dinner: Tilapia and Dandelion Greens on Pita and Mashed Potatoes with Dandelion Greens and Carmelized Onions. Best. Dinner. Ever. I won’t even bother explaining this to you. Just follow the links and let the recipes and photos speak for themselves! Here are some teaser photos 😉
Looking out at our lawn, filled with dandelions, has inspired me to keep finding new ways to use the plant in our kitchen. Next on my list is dandelion syrup, dandelion blossom muffins, and cream of dandelion soup, as well as finding new ways to incorporate them into our favorite dishes. Yes, it seems I’m creating a whole new category of posts just for this wonderfully versatile weed 🙂 But you better hurry, because before we know it, they’ll be turning to seed and we won’t get to enjoy them again like this until next year!
Some notes to consider when selecting and preparing dandelions:
- When foraging for dandelions, make sure to stay away from areas close to roads, or areas that have been treated with pesticides.
- The best time to harvest the greens is in early spring, when they’re young, before they begin to flower. As they get older, they become bitter, but can still be used if you boil or sauté them.
- The greens shrink down dramatically when cooked – up to 4-5 times smaller! Keep this in mind when gathering greens; you can almost never have too much.
- The tenderest, sweetest part of the plant is the “crown”, the cluster of new buds that sits right above the taproot.
- When washing the greens, rinse them under water, then soak for a few minutes, changing the water as many times as needed until there’s no more debris in the water.
- To wash the flowers, gently rinse them under running water to force out any bugs. Then lay them out to dry, while you prepare your recipe.
I make my green smoothies with raw, organic dandelion leaves. I start with unsweetened almond or cashew milk and toss in a half grasp of dandelion leaves and another half grasp of parsley. I often flavor the smoothie with unsweetened cocoa (another super food), and a half teaspoon of almond extract to just mask the bitter flavor of the dandelion leaves. I sweeten this mixture with liquid stevia extract, and blend with ice. So it is a low calorie, low carb, super food beverage. With the cocoa and the almond extract, guess what it tastes like….yep, chocolate almond ice cream. If you make a smoothie with just the parsley , almond extract, almond or cashew milk, and liquid stevia; it has a clean, refreshing, heavenly taste.
And if you object to the stevia sweetener, then try making a smoothie with just unsweetened almond or cashew milk and raw, organic beets with leaves. Once you’ve kicked the sugar habit, and re-learn what good food tastes like….nothing beats a “beet milk” smoothie. First sip is strange, but as the bacteria in your mouth start to digest the beets, you start to appreciate the natural sweetness. By the time you are almost done with the smoothie, you’ll be wondering if you should make another. Dandelion, parsley, beets, cocoa….4 super foods. Search online for benefits of ….dandelion leaf, parsley, beet root, cocoa. When your friends ask you why you are looking so young, why your skin looks so good…..well, you’re welcome.
We are here to share.
There is no need to be saddened by the passing of the dandelion season, because it coincides with the beginning of elder flower season. They too are renowned for making delicious flower fritters, but don’t cook all of them, because they eventually become large clusters of elderberries famous throughout history for pies and wine. Elder flowers and berries have a long list of medicinal uses as well. The plant is easy to identify and has no poisonous look-alikes. After looking at pictures of the plant on the ‘net, most people recognize it as something they have seen all their life without knowing what it was. Try it out!
Thanks for the comment, Adriane! Yes, we love elderberries around here, though I’ve never had the flowers. Unfortunately they don’t grow around where we live, so we order the berries online to use in various recipes and remedies.
If you don’t make Dandelion wine, you are missing out on a real treat – – First time I had it was 50 years ago. I have 10 gallons in process right now & we had a Dandelion salad tonight. http://www.mnn.com/food/recipes/blogs/5-recipes-for-dandelion-wine
The flower heads make wonderful pancakes! My 5 yr old g’son loves them-esp with dandy syrup!
I absolutely love dandelions. I use them in my morning green juice. I buy organic ones in the supermarket. I’m afraid to use them from my lawn as all my neighbors chem lawn.. I have one or two that have grown in my mint patch.. Can I eat them?? I’ve never eaten wild plants before..
Wow, I never thought of using them for juicing – I’ll have to try that! If your neighbors spray, I would definitely stay away, but if the mint patch is far away from the chem lawns, I’d go ahead and try them! If not just for the novelty of just picking a weed directly from your lawn and eating it 🙂 This was our first time eating wild plant too, it’s so much fun 🙂
This seems like such a good idea, but I’m too nervous just picking them and eating them form the lawn. I love getting dandelion greens from the store and using them as extra greens in salads. I’m so worried about pesticides from our neighbors and such.
Budget Earth – How to Save Money on Groceries
Yeah id you have any doubt at all, I would err on the side of caution. Where I live, the city (actually, the whole province) has stopped spraying and I’m sure our neighbors don’t spray either, so I have peace of mind there 🙂
So very jealous of that! None of my neighbors do at my actual house in Kentucky, but at the place we are renting, they are nuts about keeping their lawn manicured. It’s so funny – we are renting an apartment on top of a barn, on a farm, and they manicure their lawn like crazy and spray everything. It kills me. They always offer us free vegetables and fruits, but they spray them with pesticides *shivers*.
Btw, if I didn’t say it before, I love your blog! I was nearly dead when I found it last night on Pinterest and planning on reading more today.
Budget Earth – Baked Acorn Squash Recipe
As a kid I collected dandelions for my grandmother from Italy. I would knock on neighbors doors and ask to pick the leaves. There response was often, “Pull up the whole plant if you want.” Many of the Italians in my area made wine with dandelions. They claimed it kept them healthy. Thanks for the great recipes.
Rose :: Fine Craft G
Man, you gotta be so healthy now! good for you, discovering and inventing all these recipes! When are you going to try nettle? Another one of those champion healthy weeds… I want to read those recipes also!
I’ve been inspired to learn about all the beautiful weeds out there and actually, nettles are next on my list! Now that I know what to look for, I just gotta go see if/where they are in my yard 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!
OK now miss sarah, would you please stop having such great, relvant posts? 🙂 I was JUST thinking I needed to look up some good tips for harvesting dandilions and recipes other than salad. I got into local eating last year and towards the end of the season checked out a book on wild foods in Ontario and kicked myself when I remember the HUGE field of dandelions that grew right next to our condo complex (I like in Kitchener) that I left ignored in the spring. Not this spring! I plan to get right to using them for sure!
This article was very helpful, though, because I’ve been waiting until I see the yellow flowers to head over there, but Im seeing I should be over there now checking if they are best BEFORE they flower. Awesome stuff. Im so glad that KW (and maybe all of Ontario?) is no longer spraying but just letting them die otu in the public spaces so I can forage this source of free greens.
Shared your post on facebook, this is great, so are the recipes. Blessings!
Haha, I’m a mind reader, no biggie 😉 Yeah, I love that they’re no longer spraying too! I thought it was just Toronto, but you’re right, maybe it’s all of Ontario. I’m so glad you found the article helpful – I learned so much from writing it (the yellow flowers thing was news to me too!). Thanks for sharing it! Good luck and have fun foraging!
Considering my veggie patch is tanking due to months of unseasonable weather, but our front lawn is a dandelion carpet, this has cheered me up considerably! Thanks!
Awww yay! Have you ever cooked with dandelion before? This was my first time even considering it, and I’m so glad I did! 🙂
The Accidental House
Considering Mr A gets squeamish about any food that is not plastic packed and direct from the supermarket, and completely blemish free, it might take some convincing to get him to try anything gathered wild…. But the kids and I will eat it!