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Think Dandelions Are Just A Weed? Think Again!

Though commonly viewed as a weed, dandelions are beneficial in so many ways, and can be a tasty and healthful addition to your diet, helping to boost immunity and more. See the list!

When dandelions take over your yard, is your first course of action to get rid of them? It’s sort of ironic that, while we’re willing to spend time and money cultivating flowers in our gardens, these cheerful yellow flowers are widely viewed as the scourge of the suburban lawn. But it’s time to take a look at dandelions for the nutritious, beneficial plant they are.

How Did They Get Here?

Dandelions came to North America right around the same time as the first European settlers. Their name is an Anglicized version of the French phrase dent de lion, meaning “lion’s tooth,” after the plant’s broad, toothy leaves. They are now found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, in North America, Europe, and Asia.

A perennial plant, dandelions reproduce by means of the well-known parachute-like seedpods that appear in the stalk after the flower wilts. These wispy growths detach from the plant and spread on the wind.

A Friend To Bees

Though it may seem hard to believe today, dandelions were once purposely cultivated throughout North America. Their presence was deemed good for crops because they attracted bees.

Can You Eat Dandelions?

For centuries, dandelions have been valued as a natural remedy for numerous ailments, including hepatitis, kidney stones, and diabetes. They are said to promote a healthy liver and kidneys.

Dandelion greens are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. In fact, dandelion greens are a good prebiotic, meaning they may help increase the friendly bacteria in the gut which can boost the immune system.

Some research indicates that dandelion may have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, which could support your body’s ability to fight infection. Other studies found that dandelion extract significantly reduced the ability of viruses to replicate.

In addition, every part of the plant is edible. Fresh dandelion leaves have a sharp, bitter flavor that many find pleasing in salads. Just substitute them for lettuce in your favorite recipe, or mix them with other greens for a mellower flavor. Cooking them lessens their bite, and they are also popular sautéed or in soups. The flowers are often used to make a distinctive wine (recipe below).

So, before you aim that can of herbicide at your local population of dandelions, harvest them instead. Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Ingredients:
1 pound dandelion greens
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole small dried hot chili pepper, seeds removed, crushed
1/4 cup cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:
Rinse dandelion greens in salt water. Cut leaves into two-inch pieces, and cook uncovered in a small amount of salt water about 10 minutes, or until tender. Sauté onion, garlic, and chili pepper in oil. Drain greens and add to onion and garlic mixture. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

Dandelion Soup

Ingredients:
2 pounds dandelion greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups vegetable stock
2 large leeks, light parts only, sliced
1 carrot, diced
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Blanch dandelion greens in a pot of boiling salted water. Drain and squeeze out excess water, chop, and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add greens, carrot, and leeks and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Add vegetable stock and simmer for about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in milk. Cook, stirring frequently until slightly thickened. Add Dijon mustard and purée mixture in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Dandelion Wine

Ingredients:
3 quarts dandelion blossoms
1 gallon water
2 oranges, with peel, preferably organic
2 lemons, with peel, preferably organic
3 pounds sugar
1 package wine yeast, available online

Directions:

Collect the blossoms in the morning when they are fully open. Clean thoroughly and drain. For a more delicate flavor, separate the petals from the green base.

Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the flowers in a large pot. Cover and let steep for 24-48 hours.

Peel the rind off lemons and oranges. Remove white pith, which will add bitterness. Slice the remaining fruit. Add the orange and lemon peels to the flower-water mixture and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, strain out solids, then add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved. Allow to cool. Add the remaining fruit slices, yeast, and cover with cheesecloth to ferment. When the mixture has stopped bubbling (anywhere from 2 days to three weeks), fermentation is complete. Strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth and transfer to sterilized bottles. Cork the bottles and store in a cool, dark place for at least six months before drinking for best flavor.

Dandelion Jelly

Check out our recipe for dandelion jelly!

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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Russ

If you can find creasy greens ,mix them together, I like them steamed. The creasy greens offset the bitterness.

Mary

can dandelions be frozen and if so what is a good procedure

Louis J Apa

When I was a small boy and the Family was taken for a Sunday drive by our sainted father, in his 1953 Chevrolet B210 sedan, my dad would stop anywhere he spied large dandelions growing on the road side! These were used in our Sunday evening diner salad, as they are really tasty to eat!

Nancy Lamoureux

Something new I learned today

Beth

My mom fries the flowers up like mushrooms and eats them that way.

elainerivet

what is wine yeast and yeast nutrient? The average person is not familiar with these terms. Are these two things available at a grocery store?

Jim

You can get these at a home brewing store. Nutrient is a booster for the yeast because the wine yeast really can’t eat regular granulated sugar very well. Wine yeast is just that a strain of yeast that eats the sugar in grape juice.

Robert McIntyre

I am nearing my eighteenth birthday, later this fall. My family has eaten dandelion greens all my life.
We simply stew them in water, as you would spinach, then eat them with a sprinkle of vinegar on top! Delicious!
Bob McIntyre
Endicott, MY

Bellanina

To eat fresh dandelions you must pick them in early spring while the weather is cool. Hot weather makes the dandelions bitter. Also once the flowers form they become bitter. A delicious and easy salad is oil, vinegar, salt & pepper, sliced onions and sliced hard boiled eggs. Toss all together for a delicious salad. The egg yolks tossed with the oil and vinegar dressing make a huge difference. Later when the greens begin to get bitter is when you should sauté them with garlic and oil. We only pick dandelions where no chemicals have been used.

Terri

All parts of the dandelion are so beneficial for good liver health!..From the leaves down to the roots they help as a natural detoxifier for the hard working liver.
The internet has much info on this. I drink Dandelion tea and as a side note I take Milk Thistle supplements, also. Both for the health of my liver.
I learned about these two supplements 20 yrs ago when my husband was diagnosed with Hep C which destroys the liver. Most, like my husband go undiagnosed until it’s too late. It is a silent killer.

Susan Higgins

Great info, Terri, thank you!

Linda

Do you buy the tea or make it from scratch? If from scratch, any directions for us dummys 🙂

James Obenland

I have never tried them my whole life. Question is are they too poison to eat?

Susan Higgins

Hi James, dandelions are not poisonous unless they’ve been sprayed with a pesticides.

Ronda Gehr

We loved as a kid. My mother cooked them like spinach with hot bacon dressing.

Karen Henson

Dandelion flowers also make a great tasting jelly, tasting a lot like honey. Recipes can be found over the internet. Give this a try, if you want an unusual, fantastic jelly.

DAVE

Hey i love when someone takes pleasure in promoting the power of the dandelion……a weed you say……..the most maligned plant in the world.
But look at the wonders it can provide. Hail to the DAND-E-LION……..
lets toast this yellow lion of a flower…..dandelion wine anyone? Dave.

Jaime McLeod

P.S. Louise – The flowers don’t need processing (other than a good rinse) if you are going to cook them or ferment them in wine. To eat them raw, just pull out the little petals from the head and sprinkle them onto salads or add them to soups, smoothies, you name it.

carol b

roots make a coffee-like drink

Judy

I’m anxious to try! My gramma used to make it years ago. I do have a couple questions, though. How much yeast do you add? Also, what is yeast nutrient? Thanks!

Louise Williams

These recipes sound inviting. I just might get my nerve up to try them. Are dandelion greens the same as other greens where the smaller ones are more tender and palatable, and can the flowers be eaten directly or do you have to process them before eating?

Nicole

I’ve read about dandelion’s edibility before but is there a specific time to get them or are they tasty through out the whole season? We have several in the yard and I’ve thought about adding them to our dinner salad. My husband always asks why I won’t let him get rid of them. #1-I hate herbicides. #2-It’s edible!

willowspring

My father-in-law used to make Dandelion wine every year. My children would gather the blooms at the farm and bring the bagful home to him. It was a beautiful clear light golden color and had a pleasant taste. Interesting article.

Karen

I thought the roots were edible also. Do you have suggestions for preparing the dandelion roots?

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