Dandelions are Super Foods

dandelion

It’s almost spring, which means some people are stocking up on Round Up and Weed-B-Gon to prepare themselves for battle against my favorite flower – the humble dandelion. If you’re not as big a fan as I am of these yellow-headed “weeds”, which grow in lawns and sunny open spaces throughout the world, I know of a great way to get rid of them. Eat them.

Every part of the dandelion is edible – leaves, roots, and flowers. And they are nutritional power-houses. They’re rich in beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, and protein.

Over the years, dandelions have been used as cures for countless conditions including:

  • kidney stones
  • acne
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • diarrhea
  • high cholesterol
  • anemia
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • stomach pain
  • hepatitis

“There is probably no existing condition that would not benefit from regularly consuming dandelions,” Joyce A Wardwell writes in The Herbal Home Remedy Book.

She also says that dandelion is “one herb to allow yourself the full range of freedom to explore,” because it has “no known cautionary drug interactions, cumulative toxic effects, or contraindications for use.”

So why not harvest the dandelions in your yard this spring? And I’m sure your neighbors wouldn’t mind if you uprooted some of theirs too. (But you probably want to avoid harvesting near streets or from lawns where herbicides or fertilizers are used.)

The leaves

Dandelion leaves have more beta-carotene than carrots and more iron and calcium than spinach. The best time to harvest them is early spring, before the flowers appear, because that’s when they’re the least bitter.

How can you eat dandelion leaves?

  • Toss them in salads
  • Steam them
  • Saute them with garlic, onions, and olive oil
  • Infuse them with boiling water to make a tea
  • Dry them to use for tea

The flowers

Dandelion flowers are a rich source of the nutrient lecithin. The best time to harvest them is mid-spring, when they’re usually the most abundant. If you cut off the green base, the flowers aren’t bitter.

How can you eat dandelion flowers?

The roots

Dandelion roots are full of vitamins and minerals. They are also in rich in a substance called inulin, which may help diabetics to regulate blood sugar. Dandelion roots are often used to treat liver disorders. They’re also a safe natural diuretic, because they’re rich in potassium. The best time to harvest dandelion roots is early spring and late fall.

How can you eat dandelion roots?

  • Boil them for 20 minutes to make a tea
  • Chop, dry, and roast them to make a tasty coffee substitute.
  • Add them to soup stock or miso
  • Steam them with other vegetables

As most gardeners know, dandelions are virile (some say pernicious) plants. Why not treat them as allies, rather than enemies, this spring?

Do you eat dandelions? Do you have a favorite dandelion recipe?

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About Abby Quillen

Abby Quillen writes fiction and magazine articles. Her articles and essays have appeared in YES! Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Colorado Central Magazine, and on Common Dreams, Nation of Change, Reader Supported News, The Daily Good, Truthout, and Shareable.net. You can find more of her writing at http://abbyquillen.com.

Comments

  1. When I was a kid, back in the UK, Dandelion and Burdock was a common soda pop drink. I wasn’t so keen on it myself, but given we never had pop in the house when I was offered it at a friend’s house I always took it.

    I believe it is made with an infusion of the dandelion leaf.

  2. We’ve tried eating the tender young leaves from the dandelions in our yard, but they were too bitter. The dandelion greens I have bought in salad mixes taste better, but I’m not sure why the big difference.

    I haven’t tried the other ideas you listed yet, but since we don’t treat our yard, we’ll soon have a large supply for experimenting. =)

    • If you find the raw leaves bitter, as do I, then you can boil them to remove most of the bitterness. After washing and cleaning, I boil the leaves for three minutes, drain the water, and boil in fresh water for three minutes more. Then I drain them dry, drizzle with a little oil, and add salt. They are delicious. You can also clean the roots and bake at 350 in the oven until they are thoroughly dry. Chop with knife and infuse into hot water for tea. If you have an abundance of roots, then put them in a coffee grinder after baking and use the grounds the same way you would make coffee. Lastly, I take the flowers and trim away nearly all of the bottom (leaving enough to hold the leaves together and dip them in a very thin consistency of whole wheat pancake batter. I place these in a hot oiled skillet and flatten with a spatula, turn and enjoy.

  3. Are there perfectly safe to eat when you are pregnant? I would imagine they are but I am just checking.

  4. Love this. I’ve been picking them on my neighborhood walks and making wishes. If I had a backyard where I could trust the soil a little more (versus the city streets I’m walking where batteries are often thrown on the grass and ground), I’d eat them as you suggest. Instead I’m brewing up some dandyblend http://www.dandyblend.com/, which is delicious! The leaves are at the farmers’ market too.

    Enjoy and happy almost spring!

    • newurbanhabitat says:

      Thanks for commenting, Danielle. Dandyblend sounds great! I’m going to look for it next time I’m shopping. I love roasted dandelion root tea. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, it doesn’t taste exactly like coffee, but it’s a very tasty beverage. It’s difficult to harvest enough roots to make much, so I get it in bulk at a local health food store.

  5. Can You post some more pictures of the whole plant? Ihave two different types that grow and am confused which is which.

  6. I have never thought of eating these plants: and they are so abundant during spring time! Maybe next year I will have the courage to try some in my salad.

  7. My yard is full of these beauties but with all of the dogs we have I’m not sure that I want to eat them. I do pick up after the dogs but still ick. Just the thought. And they have been peed on. And what about pesticides that may have been used before? Or dog fertilizer that wasn’t always picked up in the past?

    • I have dogs as well, and I don’t worry about them because I clean and cook the dandelions. Most fertilizers used to grow the vegetables we eat from the supermarket every day are made from animal waste. As long as your yard is organic (no artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides) then cleaning and cooking will work. I boil my dandelion leaves, sauté the flowers, and roast the roots (see my earlier reply to Aiming4Simple’s post). Before I do any of this I thoroughly wash and rinse the dandelions and soak them in two cups of water with 1/4 cup of 3% food grade peroxide before rinsing and cooking. The peroxide really isn’t necessary as the cleaning and cooking will kill anything that may be nasty, but I tend to go overboard when it comes to food safety.

  8. It is funny that we are so adverse to such a healthy plant. I want to try to get past my prejudice against the dandys….as it makes no sense to be digging up free and healthy food and throwing it away just because it is not an acceptable social “being” in our lawn cultured land.

  9. Haven’t heard of dandelion cookies, will have to try that recipe.

    We indulge in a dandelion-centered ritual each spring. The youngest kids are the key players and the result is a celebration. Here’s what we do:

    http://lauragraceweldon.com/2012/04/10/eat-your-dandelions/

  10. Nellie Gottlob says:

    Steam some lemon-spritzed and pepper-flecked asparagus spears and full dandelion flowers (I put some bay leaves and chamomile tea in the boiling water to accent the steam) but keep some of the crisp in the bounty so as to not rid of too much of the nutrients. Hollow out a large tomato, but don’t carve away all the juicy goodness ;) add a round slice of thick, room-temp mozzarella cheese to the bottom of a refridgerator-cold tomato and bake in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese a bit more. Stick the flowers and spears into the cheese with the pretty sides facing up :D Voila!

  11. Does anyone else think this may be a low-hanging fruit in the interest of world hunger?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] It's almost spring, which means some people are stocking up on Round Up and Weed-B-Gon to prepare themselves for battle against my favorite flower – the humble dandelion. If you're not as big a fan as I am of these yellow-headed "weeds", which grow in lawns and sunny open spaces throughout the world, I know of a great way to get rid of them. Eat them. Every part of the dandelion is edible – leaves, roots, and flowers. And they are nutritional pow … Read More [...]

  2. […] weeds that may pop up in your garden is edible!(only young ones with no white saps spewing out off) http://newurbanhabitat.com/2010/03/04/dandelions-are-super-foods/ for more […]

  3. […] the blossoms as fritters. I’ve never really eaten dandelions myself, but after coming across this great post on all the uses for this sweet flower, I just might try a dandelion salad to celebrate […]

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