Free Food: Dandelion Anyone?
Dandelions are Tough!
As many people know, Dandelions are kind of hard to get rid of. I'm not talking to those people who rely on Round Up or other harsh chemicals. But to folks who have spent time and sweat trying to dig them up, or mulch them into oblivion.
Since they just want to keep coming back, time after time. Why not eat them?
Where to find Dandelions
A good question might be "Where can you not find dandelions?" These weeds pop up just about everywhere and are a real pain in the patootie to get rid of. Remember blowing the pretty puff balls off dandelions as a kid and making wishes? Well that helped to spread dandelion seeds far and wide. Not that they need a whole bunch of help, since the seeds turn loose and easily blow in soft breezes or strong winds.
Dandelions have a deep, strong tap root. So when pulling them as weeds, if you leave parts of the tap root behind, you will get a brand new dandelion plant post haste. Left unchecked, dandelions can really mess up a pretty lawn or landscape.
They can also be harvested as free food! .
What Part of a Dandelion can be Eaten?
The simple answer is: All of it! From the flowers to the root, with the leaves in between, the dandelion is edible.
The root, which resembles a very long white, sort of hairy carrot, with a few off-shoots attached, can be cleaned up and fixed just like carrots. You might want to use a vegetable peeler to get the very thinnest outside layer of "skin" off the root, before cooking. But then... You can steam, or boil them. You can stir fry them. You can add then to soups or stews. You can bake them with a little butter. You can even put them on the grill for a different "roasted" treat. Let your imagination, and your taste preferences decide how you use them with your meal preparations.
The root does tend to get a bit "woody" in large dandelion plants after the flowering stage. So harvest roots from smaller plants, or before the flowers form and open.
The leaves of the dandelion can be used fresh and raw for salads, or cooked like any other green. Be aware that large dandelion plants tend to become bitter in hot weather. Some people pare boil the dandelion greens to loose some of the bitterness. After a freeze, even the biggest, toughest dandelion will no longer maintain it's bitter flavor. So keep that in mind when harvesting dandelion in late Fall, to early winter, or after an early frost.
The flowers will not be bitter when harvested in early to mid spring. Cut the stem off all the way up to the very bottom of the flower, and toss them into salads, or cook them with mixed vegetables, or alone. You can even use them when baking cookies, cakes, or pies, as an added fun surprise. They also make very pretty garnishes! .
Are Dandelions Actually Good For You?
The truth is: Dandelions are SUPER FOOD! The properties in dandelions have been used medicinally in the treatment of kidney stones, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anemia, hepatitis, diarrhea, general stomach pain, as a natural diuretic, and the list goes on. They don't "build up" and become toxic in the human body. There are no known cautionary drug interactions.
Dandelions are richer in beta-carotene and calcium than carrots. They have more iron in them than spinach. They contain fiber, lecithin, and potassium.
They are abundant almost everywhere, and all and all are a great free food!