Eating the Weeds: Dandelions

“What is a weed?” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. “A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

photo from

I’m going to do a mini series on edible plants we commonly think of as weeds. Knowing what’s edible in your area is not only useful in some Doomsday-type situation, but it can also save you some money and spice up your meals. Being able to walk into my yard and rustle up a salad that’s tasty, free, and completely foraged helps me feel in touch with the wee patch of nature behind my house.To kick this off I’m going to start with the most infamous weed in the U.S.: the dreaded dandelion. Monsanto would have you Round-Up-ing the shit out of these prolific yellow beauties, but you’re missing out on everything from food, to medicine, and even wine. Yup. Wine.

A short history of the dandelion:

Around thirty million years ago this little treasure popped up in Asia.

Around the 10th century it began being used medicinally in Asia and by Arabian doctors, it was also prized in Egypt.  It was given the name Taraxacum, which are Greek words for “disorder” and “remedy.”

The modern name Dandelion actually stems from the French “Dents de lion”, which means teeth of the lion, most likely referring to the jagged edges of the leaves.

It boasts an impressive lists of phytochemicals and nutrients, including:

Beta-Carotenebeta-sitosterol, caffeic acid, cryptoxanthin, lutein, mannitol, p-courmaric acid, saponin, stigmasterol, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium  selenium, zinc and a host of vitamins.

Before eating dandelions on the regular it’d be smart to talk to your doctor about it if you have a medical condition or are taking prescription medications, since it acts as a diuretic and can interact with your meds.

The best time to harvest dandelion root and leaves is before they flower, when they’re the most tender and sweet. It’s still fine to harvest after they flower, but they might be a little bitter.

As it turns out, there’s a bevy of helpful dandelion videos online.

Dandelion fritters:

I’ve also seen them dipped in egg and flour then fried.

Dandelion Greens:

And finally, WINE.


8 replies on “Eating the Weeds: Dandelions”

I think it’s time to go to bed. I read Dandelion as Daffodil (starts the same, right?) and was very ready to correct you or go the ‘Wow Americans Really Give Everything A Different Name, Don’t They (WARGEADNDT?) route.

Anyway, dandelions. Yes, nice in salad. My father joined the edible flowers movement fifteen years ago, so this is nice and familiar.

“Because dog pee” sounds like a vald excuse for pretty much anything. I have a yard now but I’d be worried about dog/squirrel/woodchuck/deer pee. (Of course that’s a risk with any garden, but at least my herbs are up on the deck and only get visited by the birds.)

I take a dandelion liquid supplement every now and again (which I got through Amazon) to help with water retention and ‘heavy veins’ (for lack of remembering the technical term). I talked to my doc about it and she thought it was a good idea. The biggest issue with getting them myself would be the lack of a ‘safe’ cultivation area, and the fact that we have a lot of look-alike weeds that would have different effects (it’s some sort of thistle that I forge the name of; not milk thistle, as I take those in pill form :)). When I was looking it up, I think the key to ensuring it’s a dandelion is that it only has one ‘head’ on it.

Great article! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series! :)

Where is it safe to forage dandelion greens? I would assume it’s best to get them from your own yard since you know better what is in the soil/environment than say, at a public park or other public green space.

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