The first seeds in our spring garden are just barely starting to come up, and with less frequent access to the supermarket, I’ve been missing fresh greens.
I was thrilled when I noticed the answer to my craving on my way to the garden – dandelion!
There are a few patches of it growing around our garden gate in the mottled shade provided by our big apricot and apple trees – which turns out to be the perfect spot for us to grab a handful of leaves when heading back to the house from the garden.
Dandelion is found pretty much everywhere, starting early spring, so it makes an excellent green to fill the hunger gap. I bet you have some growing nearby too!
Greens are bio-accumulators – making them rich sources of nutrients, and dandelions are no different. However, if grown in unhealthy soil, they can also accumulate toxins.
To make sure your dandelions are bringing you nutrition only, here’s where to harvest them:
- Organically maintained garden areas
- Lawns if not sprayed with herbicides or pesticides
- Disturbed areas such as abandoned fields, and forest edges
- Public lands or places where you have permission to forage
You can use dandelion as either a salad green or a cooking green.
The flowers can also be used to make homemade (low-alcohol) wine or mead.
You can also harvest the roots of these plants and use them to make herbal teas. I find this tea has a pleasant taste faintly reminiscent of peanuts.
If you’re interested in harvesting the roots of these plants, wait until fall, or do it in early spring, before flower production begins.
When plants are producing flowers, that means there is less energy (sugar) going into the roots for storage. (That’s why carrots and beets taste better after a fall frost, too).
Dandelion contains the following vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
- B vitamins
Dandelions are early bloomers, so they are an important early forage for pollinators.
When I was out in the garden a week ago planting seeds, I saw a hoverfly buzzing around searching for food in our garden – where there wasn’t any yet, poor little guy.
Hopefully he made his way to the dandelion patch. Dandelions are good early forage for hoverflies and other pollinators, such as:
- Solitary bees
Dandelion is particularly important for pollinators in urban areas where there are less plants for them to forage from.
Some birds also appreciate this plant and will eat the seeds – you know, the ones you enjoyed making a wish on and blowing off the stem when you were a kid.
Dandelions can be used medicinally to treat such problems as:
However, consumption of this plant is not indicated for those with ragweed allergy!
And there’s one more medicinal property you may want to know about. This plant is a diuretic, well-evidenced in its french name pissenlit, which translated literally means, “piss in bed.”
So thank the French for this heads up and don’t eat it right before bedtime! Unless you want a mid-sleep potty wake-up call.
A few nights ago I made cauliflower rice with ground beef, and threw some dandelions on top to add a little green.
Dandelion has a bitter flavor, so if you’re not used to eating food with a lot of bitter compounds, try just a little on something more mild like I did with this meal.
I am looking forward to making some salads with our spring crop of dandelion greens. Right now, they aren’t too fibrous, as they will be later in summer.
So, if like me, you’re craving fresh greens – try some dandelion.