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Dandelion: Weed or Feed?

November 06, 2015

Remember when you were a kid and dandelion seed heads were the key to making your wishes come true? Then, as you grew, you began seeing the bane of a perfectly manicured garden in those same golden flowers. Now you probably can’t even remember when or why your perspective changed so drastically. Today’s the day to adjust your dandelion outlook again to see the presence of these powerful plants in your garden as a wish come true.

Taraxacum officinale flower

Taraxacum officinale or common dandelion bloom is a bright ray of sunshine.

What’s so great about dandelions?

  1. They’re easy to grow!
  2. The bitter leaves are edible.
  3. The flower buds are edible.
  4. The flowers are pretty & abundant.
  5. The roots loosen soil.
  6. The roots are edible.

Let’s look at those six points in order, in a little more depth. Plus, harvesting, preserving, tea preparation and more recipes ahead!

Dandelions are easy to grow: This plant seems content to grow in sun or shade, though it does perform better in more sunlight. All it takes is one kid blowing a seed head to make a wish and voilà! you’ve got a dandelion patch. Unless you’re farming dandelion intensively, you probably won’t need to give it supplemental nutrients or water.

Red stem catalogna

Beautiful red stem catalogna is a bitter chicory often labelled dandelion at the grocery store. Grow your own chicory seeds are an option too!

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Hint: If you are foraging or farming dandelion, resist the urge to harvest from questionable areas — like lawns where some dandelion hater may be applying various ‘cides. And, be sure what you pick is dandelion & not one of the many lookalikes that may NOT be edible.

Dandelion leaves are edible: You can even buy them by the bundle at the farmer’s market or grocery store these days — though what you buy there may be labelled dandelion while it is actually a different bitter green or chicory. Easier yet, grow a crop on your own. Then, serve the greens raw, mixed into salads or sauteed as you would chard. Too, many suggest that consuming bitter foods, such as dandelion leaves, can help with insulin resistance and other blood sugar challenges.

Hint: Dandelion greens taste best before the plants begin producing flower buds in spring. They’re still edible when flowering, but they might be extra bitter!

Dandelion flowers: (Grouping #3 & #4) When dandelions begin sending up flower buds, they tend to produce heavily. Picked young, tight buds can be fried or pickled. Left unpicked, those buds open into bright, sunshine yellow followed by those blow-for-a-wish seed heads.

Edible dandelion parts

Fresh, bitter dandelion leaves taste great in a salad or sauteed.
This thick, dirty root is ideal to clean up & roast for tea!

Dandelion’s edible roots: (Grouping #5 & #6) Removing dandelion roots can be a chore. They’re big, deep and often heavily branched. That means they do a great job breaking through dense or compacted soil, creating pockets for air, water and soil life. If you do root out some fat roots, it’s easy to prepare them for homemade tea that may help detoxify your body. In next Friday’s post we’ll provide our step-by-step instructions for converting fresh roots to tea. If you don’t plan to make your own tea, it’s easy to buy ready to steep!

Hint: Although delicious, this tea may not be the best before bedtime choice as it often increases the need to pee. We drink ours mid-afternoon instead.

Now, get out in your garden, harvest some tasty greens and start rooting up your plants for next week’s homemade dandelion tea recipe!

1 Comment

  1. […] 13, 2015 Our dandelion tea recipe makes great use of those hard-won dandelions dug fresh from your garden. Roasting the roots brings out a nutty sweetness that mellows the root’s bitterness. It makes […]

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