Dandelions are one of the most health giving, nutritious and abundant wild edibles that I have come across. To identify a true dandelion from the three look a-like plants of Catsear, Hawkbit and Hawkesbeard (all of which are edible, yet none are as beneficial), dandelions have a single golden yellow flowerhead on a hollow stem (see below) containing white sap.
The name ‘dandelion’ comes from french dent-de-lion, meaning ‘lion’s tooth’ – the leaves being deeply lobed with triangular teeth pointing towards the base of the leaf. Another distinguishing feature is to turn the leaf over and run your finger along the main vein of the leaf. If it is smooth with no hairs it is a true dandelion. Most other dandelion relatives have hairs on the veins and or on the leaves.
(The turned over leaf in the photo below shows the smooth vein).
Dandelions are perennials that grow in a rosette and are commonly found all over the world in lawns, pastures, roadsides, and wasteland. They originate from Europe and are known for their deep tap roots which easily break when you try to dig them up.
They don’t give up easily and will send up more leaves bringing up minerals from deep in the soil, benefiting the plants around them and us. They can be dug up in autumn when the plant is withdrawing it’s energy into the root, dry roasted and ground into a delicious coffee substitute, which was a practice during the rationing of the Second World War in England. (Find out how to make dandelion coffee below).
The root is well known for being highly medicinal for the liver, gallbladder and kidneys. The root has laxative and diuretic qualities, which is the origin of the English folk name ‘piss-a-bed’ or in modern French ‘pissenlit.’
The leaves contain high amounts of Vitamin A, B and C, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous and other minerals. They also contain protein, 19-32% in 100g which is an impressive amount just from green leaves. Dandelion leaves are bitter which stimulates the release of saliva, and improves digestion. They are also a tonic, help lower cholesterol levels, increase blood and lymph circulation and are blood purifiers. The leaves and flowers can be used in smoothies, salads, pestos and stir-fries. The flower-heads can be used to make wine.
The perfectly round seed heads are known to children as dandelion clocks, used to ‘tell the time’ by counting the number of blows it takes to remove all the seeds (hence they are known as ‘blowballs’ in the USA).
Dandelion Smoothie Recipe
1-2 cups water melon
12 dandelion leaves
Handful clover leaves
Handful of violet leaves
2 kale leaves
2 cups water
1 T chia seeds
1 T pumpkin seeds
2 cardamon pods
Grind the chia & pumpkin seeds & cardamon pods.
Put the greens in the blender with the water and blend together.
Then add the fruit and the ground seeds and blend again. Enjoy a smooth, rich drink. Sip and savour!
How To Make Dandelion Coffee
Find the biggest dandelion plants that you can from somewhere unpolluted and dig them up. Use the leaves in the above smoothie recipe. Wash the roots and cut them up into small pieces that once dried can be ground up in a coffee grinder.
Let them dry naturally or in a dehydrator. However, if the weather is damp they may go mouldy, so short circuit the whole process and put them directly into a very low oven which will dry and then lightly roast them in 1 to 1½ hours. Once roasted and completely dry you can store them in a jar with a closed lid.
To make a cup of dandelion coffee take 2 heaped dessertspoons of the roots, grind them and then put in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Strain into a cup. You can drink it black or add milk and honey.
Leaves of dandelion, chickweed & parsley
2 cloves garlic
2 T oil
1/2 cup macademia nuts/pinenuts
Process garlic, salt, add the nuts process again. Then add the leaves and oil. Process until the desired consistency, adding more oil if necessary. Decorate with dandelion flowers.