Dandelion

The lowly but very talented Dandelion.

Dandelions grow everywhere

Dandelions grow everywhere

Almost everyone knows what dandelions look like. Their bright yellow flowers are very hard to miss in early spring.

Dandelions are considered a noxious weed by most people and they go to great length, using herbicides and weeding, to eradicate them from their lawns and gardens. I have to confess, I am guilty of that myself. I don't use herbicides but I pretty well weeded them out of my lawn.

There is a wild corner in my garden, however, where I cultivate them. Why? Because the dandelion is a more nutritious vegetable than most anything you can buy in the store. The leaves are high on vitamin A and C and iron, containing more iron and calcium than spinach.

The entire plant is edible.

The roots are best picked in late fall, when they contain all the stored up food for the coming spring. You dig them up, wash them and with a knife scrape off the brown skin. Then you can slice them and cook them like carrots. Serve with salt and pepper and a slice of butter.
You can dry them and roast them in the oven until they have the color of coffee beans, grind them and use them as a coffee substitute without the caffeine.

The young leaves make a very tasty addition to any green salad. They are best picked in early spring when they first appear to about May. Mix them with lettuce or spinach. Or by themselves, toss them lightly in your favorite dressing and top them with some goat cheese, walnuts and a diced apple or orange. The older leaves become quite bitter and are better cooked like spinach, add a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice or added to a stir fry.
The flowers add a nice touch to any green salad. You can dip them into pancake batter and fry them in oil as fritters. You can cut off the green bracts and make dandelion wine out of them.

Dandelion Wine.
Pick the flowers at mid day, when they are wide open. Take them home and immediately wash them and remove all green parts.

You will need:

  • 2 quarts of flowers.
  • 4 quarts of water.
  • 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
  • 3 tablespoons of coarsely chopped orange zest.
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice.
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. Be sure to avoid any white pith with the zests, since it might ruin your wine.
  • 2.5 lbs of granulated sugar.
  • 1 package of yeast.
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient.

Directions:

  • Put the cleaned and trimmed flowers into a big sterile bowel or plastic bucket.
  • Boil the water and pour over them.
  • Cover with a cloth or plastic lid and let soak for two days, stirring 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Pour the mixture back into your pot and add the orange and lemon zest.
  • Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil for 15 minutes.
  • Add the orange, lemon and lime juice while cooling it to about 30 degrees Celsius.
  • Add the yeast and nutrient, cover and let stand for 3 days in a warm place.
  • Scoop out the solids with a sterilized sieve ( to sterilize, stick it into boiling water) and run the liquid through a coffee filter into a dark gallon bottle.
  • Fit with a fermentation trap.
  • If you don't have one, get a balloon. With a pin, poke a few holes into it and fit it over the bottle neck. That is to stop out side bacteria or wild yeasts from entering, yet the fermentation gases can still escape through the holes.
  • Rack the wine when it clears. Racking means, you siphon or pour the wine into another container leaving the lees (sediments) behind. At this point, you can top it up with some water.
  • Leave until fermentation stops completely and rack again.
  • Leave it for two months, rack it again and bottle it. Make sure to use sterilized bottles.


The wine is now ready to age and it will improve with time. Give it 6 months to a year before you get into it. Enjoy!

Get field guides for this and other edible, wild plants, here.

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