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Discovering Dandelions

By Abbey Smith

Looking at a bright patch of blooming dandelions this spring, I thought of a conversation I had with a Savory hub leader, Katie, who is working in Fiji to cultivate a local breadfruit enterprise. 

“Sometimes I think the trees are laughing at us,” Katie said. Imagine what it is like from their perspective, she continued. They provide us with food, medicine, shelter, oxygen, places to play, shade, forests, and we pass by without even realizing this. “Silly humans, they must say to themselves–everything you need is here.” 

I do believe that dandelions are laughing at us. As someone with a weak liver, I’ve been prescribed dandelion root tinctures from herbalists and functional doctors alike. I discovered dandelion root tea a few years ago and love its rich flavor, especially with a dash of local honey. I always felt better when taking my tinctures and drinking my tea. So this year, as golden patches of dandelion blossoms began brightening the green spring fields, I dove into discovering all I could about the humble “weed.”

It turns out that more than the roots are beneficial and delicious. The greens, the blossoms and the roots are edible and nutritious. All sources I read warned that dandelions harvested must be from a safe source. Because so many counties and cities spray herbicides in parks, along roads and other public places, and often residents spray in their own yards, dandelions picked for consumption must be growing in an herbicide free area. Our ranch is certified organic, so we didn’t have to worry about consuming poison as we tried new dandelion dishes. In early May, we headed to the fields and garden to pick blossoms, dig up roots and harvest leaves. What a generous plant the dandelion is to make all of itself edible. It’s sad to think that they are treated so poorly and perceived to be a pest, when they are so humble and giving to us. 

We made four dandelion recipes: dandelion fritters, dandelion jelly, dandelion pesto and dandelion root tea. Of the four, the dandelion fritters were hands down the family favorite. We made the dish about four times during the dandelion season. Now when I see the blossoms, I think of how delicious they look. The dandelion jelly is also made from the blossoms. All the green must be picked from the blossoms, so it is a labor intensive process and time consuming. The jelly has a delicate flavor, a bit like honey. We decided that we have honey on the ranch that the bees are making for us, so why should we do all that work? No denying the dandelion jelly was tasty though. With the greens we made a pesto. It was delicious with eggs on toast, in sandwiches, added to salads and dressings. Next year, I will pick greens when they are more tender and young. When we picked they were already fairly bitter. I actually enjoy the bitter flavor, but my family did not. I ate a lot of dandelion pesto in May. Most of the dandelion root tea I buy is from Europe. Again, so silly to buy dandelion roots from another continent when they are growing right here. The process of making the tea is to pick the roots, cut them up, dry them in the oven, then lightly roast them. 

This is our “backyard” at Springs Ranch. It was a great place to pick dandelions because it is shaded and free of herbicides. The ranch is certified organic. Make sure that any dandelions you pick for eating do not come from places where herbicides are applied.

Our family will never see dandelions the same way again. They have so much to offer in terms of flavor and nutrition. We are grateful for the golden little flower that is always a sign of spring, and making wishes. 

Here are links to the recipes we made:

As a gluten free family, we modified this dandelion fritter recipe we found to develop this recipe. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

 

Gluten Free Dandelion Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup dandelion flowers
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • Coconut oil, lard, tallow, or other fat for frying

Directions

  1. Heat the cooking fat in a heavy frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Mix together the buckwheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Stir in the milk, melted coconut oil, and egg.
  4. One at a time, coat the flowers with the batter.
  5. Fry in the hot fat until brown, turning once.

Serve with a dash of sriacha (Spencer’s favorite), a drop of honey, or enjoy plain.