Dandelions- A Foragers Guide
Walking along the tracks and trails of Marche Italy near our home, we will often see old and wise locals foraging in the undergrowth for wild edible plants and the Dandelion is the most common of these.
This is a foragers and foodies guide to Dandelions and will tell you when and where to find the wild edible, a foraging identification guide and what the wild food looks and tastes like plus nutritional information
Dandelions are often considered a nuisance weed wherever it grows and yet European and Asian nations have benefited from the amazing nutritional value of this wild edible for centuries.
In fact, in wartime Britain the Ministry of Food included Dandelion recipes and our parents remember Dandelion Sandwiches being part of their daily diet during that period. Dandelions are a wild edible rich source of vitamins, minerals and contain the much talked about antioxidants that you will pay a pretty penny for in other premium fruits and vegetables.
For example, one 100g of raw dandelion leaves contains 112% of your recommended daily required intake of vitamin A and 535% of vitamin K. The ubiquitous yellow dandelion has a long list of powerful healing properties and other health benefits.
Don’t spray it or weed it out, the dandelion is a beneficial plant to have. Why not use it as a companion plant fin your garden, it’s long taproot transports nutrients to the shallow-rooting plants in the garden fixing minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Dandelions attract bees and other pollenating insects enabling fruits to ripen.
The dandelion is a hardy, perennial edible weed. The plant produces several flowering stems and multiple leaves, the deeply-grooved, basal leaves are up to 25cm long and hairless and form a rosette above the long taproot.
Where to find & forage Dandelions
Dandelions are a commonly found broadleaf weed in most garden lawns and is found in virtually every habitat, in deep woodland, planted fields, roadsides, pasture, fertile gardens and lawns.
What part of the Dandelion to eat:
You can eat the root, leaves and event the flower. Dandelion leaves can be added to a salad or cooked. They root and leaves can also be dried and stored for the winter or blanched and frozen. Flowers can be made into juice, or added into many recipes. The root can be made into a coffee substitute, leaves into tea or added to Burdock for a refreshing Summer drink.
Dandelion – A bitter wild edible
We have followed locals foraging dandelions and similar Cicoria and tried them only to be overwhelmed by the bitterness of the raw leaves.
Well this great article by John Kallas explains that the Sesquiterpenes, or milky juice in Dandelions that transfers nutrients around the plant and leads to bitterness; he explains a theory that Sunlight which dries a plant and ultimately inhibits growth causes more bitterness as the nutrients build up. He suggests that less bitter plants maybe found in more shady areas.
If you eat them raw then try dissapating the flavour by including contrasting flavours in your salad. Likewise, when cooked they lose much of the bitterness and can be masked using salty or sweet tastes, but try not to overcook and lose the wonderful nutrients that the plant contains. If you do boil them then keep the water and utilise as part of a stock, stew or soup.
Dandelion Foraging – Nutritional Properties
- Fresh dandelion greens, flower tops, and roots contain valuable constituents that are known to have significant anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
- Dandelion leaves are packed with flavonoids such as carotene-β, carotene-α, lutein, crypto-xanthin and zea-xanthn. Fresh dandelion leaves has vitamin A in abundance. In fact per 100 g there is about 112% of your recommended daily intake, one of the highest source of vitamin-A among wild and cultivated edible herbs. Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin, an anti-oxidant necessary for maintaining healthy skin, eyes and more.
- This wild edible is a great source of other minerals – the figures in brackets represent the % of your daily recommended intake levels that Dandelions deliver, these include potassium, calcium(19%), manganese, iron (39%), and magnesium. Dandelions are also rich in folic acid, riboflavin (20%), pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin -E and vitamin-C (58%), Fibre (9%). Dandelion is probably the richest herbal source of vitamin K and 100g delivers about 650% of your recommended daily intake.
Stir fried Chilli and garlic dandelion Recipe
- 300g dandelion greens
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 whole small dried hot chile pepper, seeds removed, crushed
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese
Discard dandelion green roots; wash greens well in salted water. Cut leaves into 2-inch pieces. Cook greens uncovered in small amount of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Sauté onion, garlic, and chile pepper in oil. Drain greens; add to onion garlic mixture.
Taste the dandelion greens and season with salt and pepper. Serve dandelion greens with grated Parmesan cheese.
Recipe for dandelion greens serves 4.