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Don’t Kill Those Dandelions! Eat Them!

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Don’t Kill Those Dandelions! Eat Them!

Have dandelions taken over your yard? 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.

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.

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. 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.

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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.

Dandelion leaves are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.

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
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

Rinse dandelion greens in salt water. Cut leaves into two-inch pieces, and cook uncovered in 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
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

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
3 quarts fresh dandelion heads
1 pound golden raisins
1 gallon water
3 pounds granulated sugar
2 lemons
1 orange
3 tablespoons wine yeast
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient

Trim any remaining stalk from the base of each flower head. Place the flowers in a large bowl. Set aside one pint of water, and bring the remainder to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the dandelion flowers and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave this mixture to sit for two days, stirring twice daily. Pour the flowers and water into a large pot and bring it to a low boil. Peel the lemons and orange thinly, leaving behind the white pith. Add sugar and citrus peels. Boil for one hour, then pour the mixture into a crock or plastic pail. Add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange. Allow the mixture to stand until it reaches room temperature. Add yeast and yeast nutrient, cover, and store in a warm place for three days. Strain and pour into a bottle or jug. Add the raisins and fit an airlock onto the bottle. After the wine clears, strain and rack it (siphon off the sediment at the bottom on the bottle), adding the remaining pint of water. Once fermentation ceases completely — you’ll know it’s time when no more bubbles rise through your airlock — rack again. Set aside for two months, then rack once more and bottle. Age six months to one year.

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1 Karen Henson { 07.27.11 at 8:58 am }

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.

2 DAVE { 07.11.11 at 1:29 pm }

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.

3 Jaime McLeod { 07.07.11 at 1:12 pm }

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.

4 Jaime McLeod { 07.07.11 at 7:01 am }

Karen- I’ll echo Carol B. Here’s a recipe for roasted dandelion root coffee:

Louise and Nicole – This depends on your preference. Dandelion leaves are at their mildest and most tender right when they emerge from the ground. The older and larger they grow, the more bitter they become. However, they are never what you would call bland. Even the youngest have a bite to them. Some people enjoy the bitterness of mature dandelion leaves. If you’re not one of them, go with younger leaves, or cook them.

Judy – I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect yeast and nutrient amounts. Yeast nutrient is just what is says – food for the yeast. You can buy it at any store that sells brewing supplies, and it will say “yeast nutrient” right on the label.

Bon apetit, all!

5 carol b { 07.07.11 at 6:01 am }

roots make a coffee-like drink

6 Judy { 07.06.11 at 2:42 pm }

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!

7 Louise Williams { 07.06.11 at 2:21 pm }

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?

8 Nicole { 07.06.11 at 10:53 am }

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!

9 willowspring { 07.06.11 at 10:51 am }

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.

10 Karen { 07.06.11 at 10:49 am }

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

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