We mean eat them, of course!
They may have gotten a weedy reputation over the years, but these widespread spring flowers are actually one of the best things to bring from garden to table – and with so much potential to punch up your kitchen, you’ll need to use one to wish you started eating them earlier.
In fact, dandelions weren’t always considered an invasive nuisance.
The bright yellow puffy perennials were actually historically considered a “common herb” – a la basil, parsley or oregano – by many cultures, especially along the Eurasian area where they originally started sprouting up.
And as it turns out, our ancestors were on to something, with scientists today discovering a number of health benefits connected to the plants.
In fact, dandelions are some of the most nutrient-dense produce out there, sporting high levels of everything from calcium and iron to vitamins A and C. The plants also pack a powerful punch of the soluble fiber inulin, a gut-friendly prebiotic, and enough potassium to make them traditional diuretics – and earn them the slightly less-flattering nickname “pissenlit,” which is actually the French phrase for “pee the bed”!
The bitterness of the plant’s green leaves also helps increase stomach acid – which aids in digestion, and the plant has also been linked to liver health by helping the organ create more bile.
And dandelions are even good for your skin! The yellow puffs can been used to help treat everything from age spots to sunburn, and can also help keep pores tight and skin firm.
Not bad for a weed!
So if you’re going to be doing all that yardwork anyway to clear the lawn of the sight of these plants, you may as well keep them – and cook them!
From their green leaves to their bright yellow puffs, dandelions can actually be prepared in a number of delicious ways that helps deliver all the nutritious goodness they have to offer.
If you’re aiming for more of a leafy experience, those distinctive dark green fronds that surround the plant are best harvested before their flower sprouts. The leaves will be more tender when they’re younger – and once their flower blossoms, they become tougher and more bitter.
Still, no matter when they’re picked, they make for amazing additions to salads – adding a particularly sharp bite to the mix. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, you can sauté the greens up much like you’d do with spinach. (Think, with delicious olive oil, lemon and garlic to really put it over the top!)
And their flowers are, of course, not without their own culinary charms.
Dandelion flowers can be eaten fresh, added as decorative edible flowers to any dish. But if you’re a bit more adventurous in the kitchen, you can also try frying the blossoms – after dipping them in flour and egg or milk.
For those on the sweeter side of the spectrum, there’s also no shortage of options, including dandelion honey!
The “honey” – really more of a syrup – starts by boiling about 60 dandelion flowers (blossoms only) in 1 ½ cups of water, for about a minute. Then, remove the pot from heat and let the mixture steep overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
The next morning, put the liquid through a strainer, return the water to the pot, and add 1 cup of sugar, ¼ cup of honey and ½ a lemon (juice and zest) while letting the combination simmer for an hour. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool and thicken.
Not even their roots are unusable! Dandelion roots can be used to make a type of coffee – just wash them thoroughly, roast them at 150 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re dark and dry (about 4 hours), let them cool, then grind them up with a coffee grinder.
When you’re ready to enjoy your earthy morning beverage, add a heaping tablespoon of the ground dandelion root to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for about 3 minutes, strain, and enjoy.
Still, even though dandelions are delicious, and easy to forage for free, it’s important to keep our other planet-mates in mind. The flowers are actually a favorite of important pollinators like bees, so it’s important to never take more flowers than you need – or, as some recommend, harvesting no more than 10% of flowers in a given area.
And speaking of that area: Make sure you know where you’re taking your flowers from – or at least can be sure it’s a place that doesn’t use chemicals or pesticides to keep things in check.
Be careful – and happy harvesting!