Dandelions are one of the most common weeds growing in our lawns and waste areas. Just about everyone knows what they look like from childhood on. Our nation spends a huge wad of money each year trying to eradicate this persistent plant from golf courses and suburban plots. Instead of spraying it with poison, we should be collecting it for salads, wine, jelly, tea, and cooked greens. Dandelions remain edible late in the fall and roots can be dug even in winter, making it a great wild edible to learn to identify.
Identify – The leaves are toothed and grow from a basal rosette. Flowers are single, yellow, and mature to a white seed head with seeds borne in the wind by an ‘umbrella’ of fluff. All parts exude a bitter, milky sap when cut.
Nutritional value – Raw dandelion greens are high in Vitamins A, C, and K, as well as a decent amount of calcium and iron. They also provide fiber and some protein and lower doses of many other vitamins and minerals. * Eating dandelions provides an array of healthy antioxidants. Many sources report that dandelion is a mild diuretic, blood purifier, detoxifying herb, and it may help alleviate allergies. **
How to use – All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are best in salads early in the season when they are still tender. The buds and flowers also make a nice addition to a salad, or they can be steamed, sautéed, or boiled with the leaves. Flowers can be made into wine or jelly with some natural sweeteners you can grow yourself. Brew a hot beverage from the dried, roasted roots to help warm you up in the winter. Be sure to dry thoroughly for storage. All parts can be dried and stored for winter.