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.
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.
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.
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.
Bake the petals in cookies for a sweet treat.
Toss petals into bread dough for a lovely hint of color and flavor.
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.
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.
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.
Still, responsible harvesting is always a good practice and that applies to dandelions as well. Take only what you need and leave the rest.
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.