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Using Dandelions for Food and Medicine

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Ever look at a lawn full of yellow ‘weeds’ and wonder, are dandelions poisonous? They are not, in fact the dandelion is completely edible from the flower to the root.

They are safe to eat for humans and their pets. Dandelions are a tonic herb known for its nutritive and restorative properties.

Dandelion flowers in bloom in a field with text overlay stating how to use dandelions.

They are a nutritious, delicious, and versatile food source with a number of medicinal benefits as herbal remedies.

Dandelion Leaf Benefits

Dandelion leaves are a tender spring green. The leaves taste a bit like spinach when they are young and small. That similar flavor means the greens can be used just like spinach.

The greens will get bitter and tough as they get older and larger in a year. For this reason, harvest the green leaves early in the spring.

High in vitamins A, C, and K dandelion greens are a nutritious and easy food to add to our diets. They are also high in minerals like iron and zinc and even contain prebiotic fiber which can aid digestion.

The dandelion greens also have a mild laxative effect which can help clear out the liver and digestive system.

A dandelion egg noodle wrapped around a fork with a bowl of noodles in the background.

Eat them raw in salads or tossed into smoothies. Cook them into soups or add to quiche.

You can even combine them with other herbs and garlic to make pesto.

For a spring green comfort food, make dandelion egg noodles from the greens.

How to Harvest Dandelion Greens

In the early spring months, harvest the leaves when they are small and young. Simply cut the leaves from the ground. Collect in a basket or bucket.

Give the dandelion greens a good wash. The easiest way to do this to to put the leaves in the colander of a salad spinner.

Dandelion greens and yellow dandelion flowers in a basket with a pair of scissors.

Fill the salad spinner with water to submerge the leaves under water. Give the greens a good stir and let sit for a few minutes so that any loose dirt or soil sinks to the bottom of the spinner.

Gently lift the colander from the water, letting the water drain off. Pour the water from the spinner and place the colander back inside. Give the greens a few spins to remove excess water. Spin as much as necessary to remove water.

Proceed to use the greens as you would any salad green or spinach.

Using Dandelion Flowers for Food

Dandelion flowers have a faint honey like flavor making them ideal for use in many sweet treats.

Mostly it is the petals and just the petals we want to eat. While the entire flower head is edible, the green bits tend to be bitter and less palatable.

A basket full of dandelion blossoms sitting in the grass next to blooming dandelions.

Bake the petals in cookies for a sweet treat.

Toss petals into bread dough for a lovely hint of color and flavor.

Make a fresh and flavorful herbal tea from the petals.

The limits are truly endless, toss the petals into cookie batters, rice pudding, heck even oatmeal.

How to Harvest Dandelion Petals

Cut dandelion flower heads from the plant after the morning dew has evaporated. The flower heads should be gloriously and fully open in the sun when harvesting.

A single dandelion blossom against a wall in the lawn.

Using scissors, cut the petals from the flower head. Again the green bits tend to be bitter. A little bit of the green won’t hurt anything but do try to get mostly just the petals.

Like washing the greens, put the petals into water and agitate a bit for any insects and dirt to settle to the bottom. Spin the drained petals through a salad spinner.

Let the petals sit on a towel for a bit to dry completely and proceed with your recipe.

Using Dandelion for Herbal Remedies

The entire dandelion plant from flower to root has historically been used in herbal medicine making.

The leaves are often crushed and used in poultices on the skin to draw out poisons and impurities.

A tea of the flowers has a slight bitter effect much like chamomile making it a great after dinner tea to aid digestion.

dandelion blossoms in a jar of olive oil.

The flowers can be infused in oil to use as soothing massage oil for arthritic joints. Or use the oil in a skin softening homemade salve.

The roots are known for flushing uric acid from the body making it a treatment for gout. Try drinking it as a tea or using a root tincture for these benefits.

The roots are also often consumed as a coffee-like drink to aid digestion.

Infuse the roots in honey to sweeten tea and further aid digestion.

The flowers and roots can be made in a tincture for digestion and detoxification.

Dandelions & The Bees

Dandelions are often the first source of nectar and pollen for bees and other insects in the early spring. However, they are not necessarily the only or even the best food for bees. Still, they are a source of food and we are all rightfully concerned about our bee population.

As dandelions tend to be very productive plants, the chances of over-harvesting is pretty small.

Still, responsible harvesting is always a good practice and that applies to dandelions as well. Take only what you need and leave the rest.

A silver bucket sitting in a field of dandelions.

Don’t let the fear of harming the bees prevent you from foraging for dandelions. There’s enough to go around.

Dandelions are often one of the first things we can forage in the spring so get out there and make the most of them for food and medicine in your home.

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B in N.FL

Thursday 22nd of March 2018

Hi Kathie, You posted about regional edible weed books to aid in identifying the correct edibles. Since I have stopped having my large yard sprayed I now have a myriad of weeds (including stinging nettles) but I do not want to harvest and eat the wrong weed and suffer for it or worse. Can you (or one of your followers) give us an idea what to look for when buying a book on edible weeds, and do you know if there is a good one for the North Florida Zone 9? In 2017 I actually harvested what I hoped was Dandelion and made a tea and added it to a salad. Glad I found the right edible, and didn't poison myself. :-) Thanks for your help for those of us who are just getting started.

Kathie Lapcevic

Thursday 22nd of March 2018

Look for a Peterson Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants. They usually have several based on location throughout the country. Also check to see if your state park agency has a guide or suggestion. I know we have locally published books in Montana, I bet you do in Florida too.

Thomas Matthews

Tuesday 30th of May 2017

love the flowers breaded and fried

Linda

Monday 29th of May 2017

Please help me with distinguishing between real dandelions and the look alike. I was going to infuse what I thought was dandelion and was told it wasn't.

Homespun Seasonal Living

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

I'm not sure which plant you're confusing Dandelion with - there could be several. My suggestion is to find a really good guidebook for your area of the world and use that to identify. This post here contains some great information: http://www.ediblewildfood.com/dandelion.aspx

alena

Sunday 28th of May 2017

I picked so many dandelions roots today. I wonder if I need to wash them and then dry or we do need some dirt on them too.

Homespun Seasonal Living

Monday 29th of May 2017

Scrub those roots well, just like you would any root vegetable: https://homespunseasonalliving.com/harvest-medicinal-roots-dandelion-valerian/

Darla Sue Dollman

Friday 3rd of March 2017

Great topic! Too many people underestimate the value of this medicinal wildflowers. It was my granddaughter's favorite flower when she was younger, then one of her neighbors berated her for blowing on the seeds and told her it was a weed. It took awhile for me to convince her it actually has more benefits than all the plants combined in her neighbor's yard!

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