Spring has sprung and summer is on the way. Sunny yellow dandelions are everywhere, and the bees are busy buzzing from one golden orb to the next. It’s time to break out the family favorite dandelion recipes and take it up to eleven with some of the best and most creative dandelion concoctions to be found.
You know dandelions are supposed to be good for nature but aren’t they supposed to be good for you too? How exactly are you supposed to use them? Can you eat the whole plant? How do dandelions taste anyway?
People have been eating dandelions since forever. Because of that, there are a gazillion ways to eat dandelions all year long. Dandelions can be a meal, a drink, a snack, a dessert, a medicine, a cocktail and so much more.
Plus it’s fun to use a free superfood that grows with no work.
It’s one of the earliest foods available in the spring, it’s easy to use and it tastes good. You don’t even need a garden. It’s free, it’s healthy, and it’s all around you.
Once you try it, dandelion may become one of your go-to foods. I have always foraged dandelions in normal times, and now dandelion recipes are part of our pandemic food security plan along with microgreens and indoor garlic.
It’s a dandelion farm!
Yesterday we heard the neighborhood kids playing in our front yard. They said “We couldn’t find them anywhere because they’re all here! It’s a dandelion farm!”. The kids spent an hour picking dandelions and blowing dandelion seeds into the breeze (and the yard).
If you don’t have neighborhood kids that plant dandelions for you, you can grow dandelions on purpose in your garden. There are larger cultivated varieties such as Vert de Montmagny (French dandelion) and Amélioré à Coeur Plein that have a milder taste than wild dandelions. You can buy cultivated dandelion greens in the grocery store or at farmer’s markets or buy seeds online.
This article from Morning Chores has a comprehensive rundown of the cultivated dandelion varieties and dandelion-like plants that people grow for food and medicine.
Most people skip the work and forage wild dandelions for free. Dandelions are native to Europe and Asia and now grow all over the temperate regions of the world. Dandelions are a tenacious little plant with a long, nutrient-mining taproot that improves the soil where it grows.
As one of the most prolific and widespread early spring flowers, dandelions are an important food for wildlife and beneficial insects. Dandelion pollen is one of the earliest spring foods for bees, which is just one of the reasons we welcome the dandelions at our house.
Plus it’s pretty relaxing to watch the bees and the goldfinches enjoying the dandelions in our yard.
Why would I want to eat…dandelions?! The benefits
Dandelions are one of the healthiest plants you can eat. Because of this, the greens and buds are a traditional part of European and Asian cuisines. Dandelion greens have superfood levels of vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants and dietary fiber.
Dandelions were originally brought to America as a medicinal plant and are used by herbalists in North America, Europe and China. The “officinale” part of the Latin name, Taraxacum officinale, indicates the plant has herbal and medicinal uses.
One of the French names for dandelion “pissenlit” indicates dandelions use as a diuretic. In addition to the diuretic use, dandelions are used as a spring tonic digestive to support the liver. You can make or buy medicinal dandelion tinctures, extracts and capsules.
Every plant is not for everyone. Eating dandelion as a food is considered safe for most people, but may cause allergic reactions in some people. The latex in dandelion stems can cause contact dermatitis for people with sensitivities. Use caution with any new food and consult a physician if you are using dandelion medicinally.
Where and how to forage dandelions when you aren’t a dandelion farmer
You can forage to provision your dandelion recipes from the neighbors or from a park IF you are 1000% sure they haven’t been exposed to herbicides or pesticides. Call your city’s parks department to be sure or ask your neighbor. Chances are good that you’ll be welcome to take as much as you want. Choose places that aren’t frequented by pets.
You can harvest dandelions in your own yard just as part of the regular weeding. Be sure you have the right plant. The English common name dandelion is derived from the French “dent de lion” or lion’s tooth for the tell-tale serrated leaf edges. Dandelions are one of the most recognizable plants in the world, but there are still some lookalikes in early spring before the flowers arrive and some other yellow flowered plants that look similar.
Good news-none of the lookalikes are poisonous and all have culinary and medicinal benefits.
Here’s a useful post on how to tell true dandelions from the look-alikes from Mountain Herbs. Dandelion and the Look-alikes
When and how to harvest and clean dandelions
The easiest way to harvest dandelion greens is to cut them from the plant with a knife or scissors. If you dig up the whole plant, dirt gets mixed into the leaves. If you’re harvesting greens as part of weeding, cut off the leaves first, leaving the crown to hold onto when you dig up the root. The youngest, earliest leaves are mildest. Leaves become more bitter when the plant flowers.
This article from Foodal goes into depth about which plants and leaves to harvest and how to prep them for eating.
Feeling Dandy? Forage and Cook Dandelion Greens
If the plant has already started to flower you can cut the whole plant off at soil level and harvest the new growth before it flowers again, or you can blanch the leaves by covering the whole plant with a container for two weeks to decrease the bitterness.
Some people think the dandelion crowns (the part where the leaf attaches) taste like artichoke hearts. Dig them up in early spring when the dandelion hearts taste mildest. This article from Rebecca Woods shows how to harvest them.
Dandelion Crowns (Hearts)
Clip the unopened flower buds from the plants down by the base in the early spring. Buds don’t usually need a lot of cleaning, though a quick soak in salt water is helpful for evicting any small beasties in residence.
Flowers are also easy to harvest in the spring and summer. Here’s a trick to harvest petals without getting any of the bitter green part. Some sweet dandelion recipes, such as for dandelion wine or jelly require petals only.
Here’s a video that shows an easy trick to separate the petals from the bud base. Or, you may use the blunt side of a paring knife to scrape the petals from the bud.
You can dig and use dandelion root anytime, but most herbalists dig dandelion roots in the fall. At that time the plant stores energy in the roots in preparation for winter. Grow Forage Cook Ferment, has a lot of dandelion articles, including how to forage the root.
Now what? The best dandelion recipes for every time of year
Now you have a lot of dandelion greens, buds, petals or roots, what will you do with them? Find an option below and start exploring all the ways you can use this little green powerhouse. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there are possibilities for every season.
Early spring dandelion recipes: Young leaves and dandelion buds
Early spring is the time to eat young dandelion greens, crowns and unopened buds. Salads, smoothies and juices are the best ways to use the mild greens to best advantage.
Who loves a warm bacon dressing salad? I love a warm bacon dressing salad. The dressing perfectly complements the greens. From Bisquits & Such.
Dandelion salad French, with anchovies and parmesan, from French Women Don’t Get Fat. I’m a big fan of all the flavors in this dish.
This one is sweeter, with pear to counter the mild dandelion bitterness. This version from FeedFeed is vegan, with a creamy poppyseed dressing.
Dandelion Colcannon Recipe: Two Ways! This is a version of colcannon, an Irish dish with greens and potatoes. This dish is usually made with cabbage or kale in the fall, and also works well in spring with dandelions.
This raw vegan tropical dandelion smoothie is full of pineapple, coconut and anti-oxidant filled dandelion greens. From Crystal Dawn Culinary.
Dandelion juice This refreshing juicer recipe includes celery, apples, cucumber and lemon. Switch the proportions to suit your own tastes. From Reboot with Joe.
Here’s a cooler recipe with agave nectar and lime. It’s written without alcohol, but you could add a shot of vodka to make it a cocktail. The original version used sorrel, which would make it a lot more sour. From the Bitten Word.
I LOVE capers and I go through so many. This is a much more economical way to use what already grows in the yard. It’s best to use the very young buds that haven’t grown on long stalks yet, in the early spring. This how-to recipe is from Shaye at the Elliott Homestead.
Mid spring through summer: Mature dandelion greens and dandelion flowers
Dandelion pesto is one of my favorite ways to use dandelion greens, mixed in with whatever other flavorful homestead greens are available. I’ve included three dandelion pesto recipes here. The stronger flavor of pesto made with mature greens work well as a topping for fish or in pasta dishes. Freeze this in quarter cup portions to have all year long. Dandelion flowers can swing sweet or savory depending on if you keep the whole flower or remove the petals only. More mature dandelion greens have a more pronounced bitter taste which works better in cooked dishes.
This is a traditional pesto recipe like you might use with basil, only with dandelions. From the very inspiring blog by David Lebovitz.
This flexible recipe notes that you can use lots of combinations of greens and nuts or seeds for a custom pesto that suits your own tastes. Use what you have. It’ll be fine.
This is a vegan recipe made with walnuts and no cheese, by Brad at the Belgian Foodies.
Chicory alla romano Dandelions sautéed in a simple Italian style with garlic and chile pepper. By Filippo at Philos Kitchen.
Dandelion greens go very well with eggs. This is one of my favorite spring breakfasts. By Laura at A Beautiful Plate.
If you want to get even fancier with your dandelions and eggs, try making a dandelion soufflé. Making a soufflé is easier than it looks, especially if you make mini souffles in ramekins instead of a big soufflé in a casserole dish. From Lisa at Seasons in Vermont.
Here’s an authentic Italian soup with sausage and cheese, from Erica at Wild Food Girl, a Colorado wild food blogger. This dish is also called “manest” and is a predecessor of minestrone.
This is a dish the kids remember well from when they were little. My kids liked their fritters with powdered sugar (of course). Use the whole flower for these. From Beth at Red and Honey.
This dandelion fritter version includes gluten-free and vegan options. From Deep Roots at Home.
For a definitely savory fritter, use the dandelion greens. This dandelion recipe uses a mix of dandelion and swiss chard. You can use any mix of greens or use only dandelion greens. From Caroline at Grow It Cook It Can It.
For these lovely cookies, use the petals only. The video in the “how to forage section” shows an easy way to remove the petals from the rest of the flower. This recipe is from Ashley at Adamant Kitchen.
These little beauties are paleo too. From Ashley at Forest and Fauna.
Dandelion jelly is also known as “dandelion honey”. Some people use dandelion jelly as a vegan honey substitute. From Jane at Baker’s Brigade.
This dandelion recipe is a lot of fun, especially for the little ones. You can use honey instead of sugar if you like. From Tessa at Homestead Lady.
This one is fun for adults. Capture the summer, just like Grandpa in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. This recipe from Laurie at Common Sense Home makes the whole wine-making process very clear and doable. Don’t miss the one mistake you don’t want to make.
Fall: Time to dig dandelion roots
Fall is the time to dig roots. As the weather cools, the plant starts storing more energy and medicinal goodness in the roots. People use roasted dandelion root as a coffee substitute, with or without roasted chicory root and other herbs.
This dandelion tea recipe uses either fresh root or dried roots. From Leaf.tv.
How to Harvest Dandelion Root and Make Roasted Dandelion Tea This recipe is fancy, and uses butter to make a foamy rich tea. From Learning Herbs.
This dandelion recipe uses a mix of dried herbs to make a beneficial mocha. From Nourished Kitchen.
Iced Dandelion Mocha This recipe includes chicory and cacao nibs for a refreshing iced mocha. From Elana’s Pantry.
Another fantastic dandelion recipe from Colleen at Grow Forage Cook Ferment. Use the bitters straight up as a tonic or include them in a fancy cocktail.
Winter: The party’s still on
In temperate climates dandelions have a season, but you can still use them in the winter. Either use dandelions you preserved in other seasons, or you can grow dandelions indoors for fresh greens.
If you can’t get enough, you can grow baby greens indoors through the winter, just like you would grow any other baby green. Use any of the early spring dandelion recipes to use your baby greens. Collect dandelion puff seeds during the growing season to grow indoors or buy seeds from a supplier. From Heal With Food.
Another way to have dandelion greens in the winter is to dig roots in the fall or winter to grow indoors. You can keep the roots cold and plant them in pots throughout the winter for their greens. Greens grown this way will be less bitter and have a more tender texture than greens from the yard in late spring. From Ava Chin for the New York Times.
Winter is the time to use preserved dandelions from the rest of the year. The dandelion jelly, capers and wine recipes above are all ways to preserve dandelions. Keep reading to learn a few other ways you can preserve your dandelions to keep the goodness going through the winter and all year long.
Preserve greens with salt in a crock, rinsing well before you use them in dandelion recipes. This is an ancient low-energy food preservation practice. From Hilary at Everlong Gardener.
Learn how to dehydrate and pulverize your greens, including dandelions, to use as green powder for smoothies. You can pay premium prices for green powder in stores, or you can make your own from the free and even more nutritious greens outside your door. From Chef Frank at Farm and Forage Kitchen.
Learn how to freeze, can or dry your harvested greens. This article is about leafy greens in general. All the methods can be applied to dandelions. From Kathie at Homespun Seasonal Living
Here’s another useful article from Laurie at Common Sense Home. Laurie will teach you how to preserve dandelion roots, and make decoctions and infusions, plus a few ways to use them.
Dandelion flowers and petals can easily be dehydrated or frozen.
Enjoy your new dandelion know-how
It’s fun to know that I can walk out the door anytime and harvest food for a nice meal or dessert or tea. It feels a bit like getting away with something to eat a free, no-work food that’s more nutritious than anything I can buy at the store.
Hopefully you appreciate your own dandelions a little more, knowing how versatile and beneficial they are for you and for the ecosystem.
What’s not to love about a plant that grows with no work, helps the bees and birds, and can improve the soil with its nutrient-mining root?
Give one of these dandelion recipes a try and I bet you’ll come to appreciate all the ways you can add dandelions to your daily life. If so, please come back and tell me what you tried. If you have a dandelion recipe that uses dandelions in a different way, I’d love to know what it is. I’m always looking for new ways to use this little powerhouse plant.