Every spring people stock up on Round Up and Weed-B-Gon to prepare themselves for battle against one of my favorite flowers – the humble dandelion. If you’re not as big a fan as I am of these yellow-headed “weeds”, which grow in lawns and sunny open spaces throughout the world, I know of a great way to get rid of them. Eat them.
Every part of the dandelion is edible – leaves, roots, and flowers. And they are nutritional powerhouses. They’re rich in beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, and protein.
Over the years, dandelions have been used as cures for countless conditions including:
- kidney stones
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- stomach pain
“There is probably no existing condition that would not benefit from regularly consuming dandelions,” Joyce A Wardwell writes in The Herbal Home Remedy Book.
She also says that dandelion is “one herb to allow yourself the full range of freedom to explore,” because it has “no known cautionary drug interactions, cumulative toxic effects, or contraindications for use.”
So why not harvest the dandelions in your yard? And I’m sure your neighbors wouldn’t mind if you uprooted some of theirs too. Just avoid harvesting near streets or from lawns where herbicides or fertilizers are used.
Dandelion has a few doppelgangers, but it’s easy to distinguish it. Look for a single thick stem filled with milky sap and smooth leaves shaped like jagged teeth.
Dandelion leaves have more beta-carotene than carrots and more iron and calcium than spinach. The best time to harvest them is early spring, before the flowers appear, because that’s when they’re the least bitter.
How can you eat dandelion leaves?
- Toss them in salads
- Steam them
- Saute them with garlic, onions, and olive oil
- Infuse them with boiling water to make a tea
- Dry them to use for tea
If dandelion leaves taste too bitter for you to enjoy, here are four surefire ways to mask the taste:
- Add something sweet, salty, or sour.
- Combine them with less bitter greens.
- Cook them in oil.
- Boil them for three to five minutes.
Don’t let the bitterness of dandelion leaves scare you away. Phytonutrients have a bitter, sour, or astringent taste, so bitter plants are often highly nutritious. Bitterness also stimulates the liver to produce bile, which aids digestion and nutrient availability. Moreover, bitter foods modulate hunger and help curb sugar cravings.
Dandelion flowers are a rich source of the nutrient lecithin. The best time to harvest them is mid-spring, when they’re usually the most abundant. If you cut off the green base, the flowers aren’t bitter.
How can you eat dandelion flowers?
- Toss them in salad
- Steam them with other vegetables
- Make wine
- Make fritters
- Make Dandelion Flower Cookies
Dandelion roots are full of vitamins and minerals. They are also in rich in a substance called inulin, which may help diabetics to regulate blood sugar. Dandelion roots are often used to treat liver disorders. They’re also a safe natural diuretic, because they’re rich in potassium. The best time to harvest dandelion roots is early spring and late fall.
How can you eat dandelion roots?
- Boil them for 20 minutes to make a tea
- Chop, dry, and roast them to make a tasty coffee substitute.
- Add them to soup stock or miso
- Steam them with other vegetables
As most gardeners know, dandelions are virile (some say pernicious) plants. Why not treat them as allies, rather than enemies, this spring?Dandelions are superfoods. Put the pesticides away and eat them.Click To Tweet
If you liked this post, check out more of my popular articles about herbs:
- Simple Herbal Tonics: Brews for Beginners
- Herbs to Help You Stay Healthy This Spring
- Simplify Your Medicine Cabinet
- 5 Winter Immunity Boosters
- Eat Bitter Foods for Better Health
[Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised version of a post originally published on March 4, 2010]
Do you eat dandelions? Do you have a favorite dandelion recipe?