Eat Your Weeds: When and How to Pick Dandelion Greens

Where are Dandelions Found?

If you have seen a green space, odds are that you can recognize a dandelion. Native to Europe, the mighty dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Weber) is now at home in most temperate backyards. Dandelions will grow almost anywhere.

Look for them in front yards, back fields, along side roads, and in any habitats from deep woods to rock-covered hillsides.

Dandelions: bees love ’em

Commonly regarded as a weed, I suggest you take a closer look at this beneficial plant, and at least TRY a few greens mixed in a salad.

New research [1] suggests that the dandelion and its parts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities within the human body.

And hey, free food!

Dandelion is regarded as a nontoxic herb that can be potentially exploited for its choleretic, diuretic, antirheumatic, and anti-inflammatory properties. [1]

Nutritious if Not Always Delicious

This so-called weed is amazingly nutritional, full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The greens contain vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, beta carotene, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.

One cup of raw dandelion greens contains approximately 112% of your daily required intake of vitamin A, and 535% of vitamin K. Not bad!

The dandelion flowers themselves boast more beta-carotene than do carrots.

Dandelion roots are useful dried and for making diuretic teas, or you can dry, roast, and brew the roots for a coffee substitute.

The dandelion displays anti-influenza virus properties (the inhibition on virus replication) without damaging parts of your cells.

With its yellow mane a glow and its strength in numbers, you’d think it would have more pride. Maybe now, it will.

Medicinal Uses of Dandelion Parts

Dried dandelion leaves and roots harvested at the end of the growing season in the autumn are infused or decocted as a liver-cleansing tonic, aiding digestion and cleansing the blood.

  • Diuretic Delights: Dandelion is a diuretic, traditionally used to treat PMS, and has a mild laxative effect.
  • Dandelion may relieve inflammation and congestion of gallbladder and liver.
  • Native Americans applied steamed leaves externally (as a poultice) to relieve the discomfort of stomachaches.
  • Eating green leaves is considered a tonic and blood purifier.
  • Ingest the root to benefit breastfeeding (increase lactation) [1], use it as a mild laxative, and for dyspepsia.
  • The bitter taste of dandelion is an appetite stimulant

Better Bile: Because the bitter dandelion root decoction raises hydrochloric acid in stomach, it improves calcium breakdown and absorption, increasing bile production and therefore lowering cholesterol (1 bile molecule requires 2 cholesterol molecules from the liver).

Which Part(s) of the Dandelion are Edible?

You can eat the entire dandelion: eat flower, root, leaves, and crown. Dandelions can be eaten raw or cooked, can be dried or frozen, the flowers can be made into juice, the root into a substitute for coffee, and the leaves and root can be dried and used for tea.

Delicious Salad with Dandelion Greens

Add dandelion greens in small pieces with thyme, fennel, and nasturtiums, along with other salad ingredients, to make a mineral and vitamin-rich salad. Thyme and fennel balance out the bitterness of dandelions.

Quick & Simple Dandelion Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic scapes or wild (spring) garlic or sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • A lot of large dandelion greens (8 cups / 4 ounces) torn in half

Directions

Dressing: Combine garlic scapes or onion, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk until well combined. Drizzle in oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified.

Place dandelion greens in a salad bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the greens, toss, and serve. Easy peasy.

Get creative with your dandelion salad, add whatever you like:

  • finely chopped red or vidalia onion
  • fresh basil
  • apple pieces
  • grape tomatoes
  • goat cheese
  • pears
  • bacon, if you’re into meat
  • walnuts
  • radishes
  • boiled and sliced beets
  • hardboiled eggs
  • anything else you want

An easy and nutritious dressing is the classic olive oil and red wine / balsamic vinegar (made with 1 part balsamic vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, plus salt and pepper).

Remember, dandelion greens are best eaten raw before they produce a yellow flower — harvest early in the spring.

Dandelion Roots for Diuretic Tea

Make a mineral-rich tea from the roots and leaves. Gently simmer chopped fresh roots for a stomach bitters.

Cook, Steam or Fry Those Greens

Cook fresh leaves early in season with olive oil, bacon, and lemon juice. As the season progresses, dandelion leaves become increasingly bitter: pour plenty of water on the late-summer plants—the morning harvest will be sweeter. Even when bitter, leaves are a healthy addition to a stir-fry; steam them and throw them on top of a veggie stir-fry or try pairing them with marinated tofu. Another option is to cook the greens in oyster oil with cayenne, garlic, and strips of beef sautéed with leeks, kale, and turnip greens. Delicious!

Can You Eat Dandelions From Your Yard?

If you do not spray your lawn with herbicides nor pesticides, you have the opportunity to harvest dandelions all season long without requiring a fridge. Eat them in salads, or steam them on the stove. The entire plant, from the flower all the way down to the roots, is edible.

Dandelions, especially younger leaves , are delicious; the taste of dandelion resembles a slightly bitter green like arugula. And if you didn’t already know, bitterness correlates with age.

How to Choose and Prepare Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are edible, nutritious, easy to cultivate, and a great addition to a frugal yet responsible 100-mile diet.

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