We tend to think of those little yellow flowers dotting our lawns as pests. Interruptions in a sea of soft green grass. The word “weed” has a negative connotation attached to it and so we yank them from the earth and fill out compost with them. Our backyards weren’t always spotted with dandelions however. They are thought to have evolved about thirty million years ago in Eurasia. Dandelions have been used by humans for food and as an herb for much of recorded history…
Today dandelions are found on every continent and have been gathered for food since prehistory, but most of the varieties grown specifically for consumption are native to Eurasia. While known by a swath of other names the world over, the English reference ‘dandelion’, is a mangled interpretation of the French ‘dent de lion’ meaning “lion’s tooth”, referring to the tooth-like leaves or greens. These leaves contain plentiful levels of vitamins A, C & K and are a good source of calcium, potassium, iron & manganese. The plant is also known to be a diuretic, to treat infections and aid with bile and liver problems within herbal medicine practice. Don’t go munching up the contents of your backyard without consulting your MD or ND however. The high levels of potassium in dandelion when paired with a potassium sparing diuretic could cause fatally high levels in the blood.
The many parts of the plant have different culinary applications: The flower petals of the dandelion can be used as an ingredient in dandelion wine. The ground, roasted roots can be used to make a gluten free, caffeine-free coffee alternative such as Dandy Blend. Dandelion is also one of the ingredients of root beer! Dandelions were considered a delicacy eaten in salads and sandwiches by the Victorian gentry. And you can too! Just make sure you’re not using dandelions from an area that has been sprayed with any kind of fertilizer, herbicide or other chemical and wash them thoroughly before preparing them for consumption.
The leaves of the dandelion plant are quite bitter. They can be mixed into a blend of salad greens much the same way arugula, frisee or radicchio are added as bitter components. To remove the bitterness, the greens can be sauteed and used much like spinach. Dandelion leaves and buds have been a part of traditional Greek, Slovenian, Sephardic, Chinese, and Korean cuisine. In case your grandmother didn’t pass down and dandelion containing recipes through your family, here are ten recipes you can use dandelion greens in (that pumpkin seed pesto sounds delish!)