The dandelions around my property have been at perfect eating size for the past weeks. Young, tender and not too bitter. Follow this link to watch a great recipe video from Clara who is 94 years old and teaching us how to pick and make a dandelion salad.
I often add the leaves to salads and recently had a nice dandelion and chive salad with a lemon garlic vinaigrette. Sometimes people look at me strangely or ask if they are really eating dandelion leaves? Sure, why not? They're a good source of vitamins and minerals and, if you’re removing them from your garden anyway, might as well put them to good use! More free food! Dandelion greens are sold alongside the Swiss chard at the store but I don't find them as flavourful.
You can eat the flowers, greens and roots. Be sure pick plants away from where the dogs have done "their business". You also don't want ones that been sprayed with chemicals or even near areas that have been exposed to pesticides, sprays, lawn chemicals and the like.
Leaves: try to harvest before the plants bloom. If you wait too long, they will taste bitter. To cook dandelion greens, wash them well under cold running water, then stir fry or steam them for a few minutes and season as you wish. Some people pour boiling water over them, cover and cook for 5 minutes or so until tender. Five minutes seems too long to me.
Roots: best when thick and short as opposed to long and thin. I haven't done it but you can roast the root to make a dark, nutritous brew to replace coffee.
Flowers: pull the florets or newly opened flowers off the stems. They have a warm honey-like flavour. Sprinkle on pasta, salads, rice. You can also make dandelion wine from fresh, very young flowers. They can also be added to pancake and fritter recipes.
NUTRITION FACTS (100 ml < 1/2 cup) dandelion greens: 45 calories, 2.7 g protein, a whopping 3.5 grams of fibre, 14,000 IU Vitamin A, 35 mg vitamin C, 3.1 mg iron, 187 mg calcium, 397 mg potassium... and the good news goes on (Source: Canadian Nutrient File, Health Canada). That’s more than most other vegetables. Without enough vitamin A you can have eye problems and trouble fighting infections. Vitamin A helps kids grow tall and keeps skin healthy. Calcium keeps bones strong, aids in muscle contraction and proper nerve function.
MEDICINAL USE: many pioneers relied on dandelion greens as a spring tonic and so can we! They are full of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins less available during the winter. Scientists continue to explore the anti-bacterial properties of dandelion, their ability to purify the blood and fight cancer.
© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc