The other day I realised that some of you didn’t know that dandelion is edible, so we need to correct this right away!
Dandelion is a common plant from the Taraxacum genus, easily recognisable for its jagged leaves, yellow flowers and puffy seed heads, which are a favourite with children as blowballs for making a wish. Both common dandelion and red-seeded dandelion, which are native to Europe, Asia and North America, are totally edible and you can use the roots, flowers, stems and leaves to make all sorts of culinary stuff.
In terms of food, dandelion leaves count among bitter greens, but it’s absolutely delicious and contain high amounts of vitamins A, C and K, as well as decent amounts of iron, calcium, potassium and manganese. Dandelion flowers are also a great spring nectar source for many pollinators and although most people consider dandelion a weed in their backyards, it is wise to let it flower for a few days before harvesting so you can help nature do its job.
What can you make with dandelion?
- Sauteed or braised dandelion greens: Prepare the dandelion leaves much like you would spinach or chard, with a bit of olive oil, salt and garlic. Cooking will remove the bitter taste and you can serve them as a side dish or add them to omelettes like my frtalja here, rolled dumplings, spring quiches or soups.
- Dandelion fritters: Clean the yellow flowers and fry them in an egg, flour and milk batter in the same way you’d make pancakes. Serve with a bit of honey and there’s your next Sunday breakfast.
- Dandelion salad: The best way to eat dandelion in my opinion is to eat the leaves raw in a salad. Dandelion salads are an early spring staple here in Slovenia and foraged young greens can be quite pricey if you buy them at the farmer’s market. You’ll need to pair them with something hot to make them more tender and wilt them a little bit, so we usually eat them with hard-boiled eggs, boiled potatoes and roasted bits of bacon (one or all of the above). You can also just heat up the oil and vinegar if you want a lighter salad, but make sure you don’t boil the oil. I recommend pumpkin seed oil and apple cider vinegar, although some people also like a lemon vinaigrette.
- Dandelion vinegar: Make dandelion infused vinegar by soaking flowers and leaves in apple cider vinegar for 4-6 weeks in a dark room. Strain and enjoy the new flavour.
- Dandelion pesto: You can use dandelion greens much like you would any other greens or basil to make a delicious pesto for your next pasta meal. It goes great with the regular olive oil, cashews or pine nuts, garlic, and grated Parmesan combination and you can find a detailed recipe here.
- Dandelion root tea or coffee: Dried, roasted roots can be used for making a strong dandelion coffee, although personally I don’t really like the taste (here’s a recipe). You can also make a herbal tea with flowers and roots, but remember that dandelion has strong diuretic properties, so don’t overdo it.
- Dandelion honey: This is really more of a sugar syrup, although you can also make dandelion-infused honey by soaking the flowers in honey for a few weeks. To make dandelion syrup, layer the yellow flower petals and sugar in a jar, then put it in the sun until the sugar liquifies and forms a syrup. It will keep for about a year after straining and it has a nice, rich taste that’s not bitter at all.
- Dandelion wine: I haven’t tried this one yet, but it’s a historical home brewer’s staple. Instructions here.
- You can also use dandelion flowers, tinctures, tea or extracts in homemade cosmetics in soap, salves, infused oil, bathbombs etc., so it really is a super versatile plant.
Much like wild garlic, nettles and other wild greens, dandelion is best harvested in spring through summer, before the leaves get too tough, stringy and bitter to eat. You can find it pretty much anywhere, in your garden or backyard, nearby park or nature area, but make sure that what you take home hasn’t been exposed to pesticides, fertilisers or picked at the local dog toilet. So, the next time you’re trying to get rid of those pesky dandelion weeds everywhere, eat them.
Also, fun fact: the name dandelion comes from French dent de lion (lion’s teeth) for its jagged leaves, but the plant also has some other colourful names. In Italy it’s also known as pisacan (dog pisses) and piss-a-bed in folk English for the diuretic properties of the roots, as well as devil’s milk bin in Danish, milk witch in English and milky in Lithuanian for the white emulsion that fills the stems.